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Margaret Dylan Jones
W.A. composer, pianist,
teacher, article writer
(internet and email etiquette)
The Do's and Don'ts of Online Communication
I've written this page to cover a few issues with
email which particularly concern me. For more about netiquette see the
links at the end.
See also my page about my pronouns (she or they) and my title (Mx or Mix) at How to refer to Margaret
Main gripe: spreading my email address all over the
internet by not using Bcc. Second gripe: chain letters (including Shares on Facebook). Let me explain...
To, Cc, Bcc
You put the main recipient's address in the 'To' field. If you want
others to also receive it you can put their addresses in any of the To,
Cc or Bcc
Cc means 'carbon copy,' as we of a certain age will recall from ancient
typewriters. We'd put a piece of special carbon copy paper between two
pieces of ordinary paper. When we typed a letter it produced the
original plus a copy, or even several copies with more paper and more carbon
paper. With email, 'To' correlates with the original page, and 'Cc'
correlates with the carbon copy sent to any interested third party or parties.
Bcc means 'blind carbon copy.' In email this is very useful and
important. The people with these addresses will receive the
email, and they'll
see the To and Cc addresses. However, no-one will see any of the
addresses in the Bcc field. Even the recipients in the To and Cc fields
will not be able see the Bcc addresses.
So, by using Bcc you can protect all your friend's email addresses. If
you want to do a complete job you can even put only your own address in
the To field, leave the Cc field blank and put everyone else in the Bcc
Now, you may be asking "Where do I find the Bcc field?" I'm glad you
asked. It seems Micro-what's-it company have concealed the Bcc in the
Options Menu of their famous email programme. But after you've found it
and used it once
it will henceforth always appear just below the Cc field every time you
write a new email.
Why is Bcc so important to me that I've spent hours making this page?
It's because not using it leads to spam which several times over the
last twenty years or so has led to my email addresses becoming
So, always use Bcc for multiple recipients unless you are quite certain
everyone already has each other's addresses.
If' you're using Bcc it may be important, and polite, to mention in the
body of your email or under your signature that you've sent it to others. Something like "Bcc'd
to Mary Smith, John, David and 12 others."
Carefully remove all email addresses in anything that is
forwarded. Be careful of hidden addresses: if you see a person's name
underlined, it's probably got their address there, so you need to
delete that name.
Don't add or alter any text unless you indicate where and how you've
done that. To show you've deleted something use three dots (...) or
To show you've added something, make it like a comment addressed to the
new recipient and use square brackets, like this:
[Jenny, I think Dale meant Thursday, not Tuesday]
Be sure you have
permission to forward (implicit or otherwise).
Avoiding spam (junk email)
There are only three things certain in life: death, taxes and spam.
So we will get some junk mail. But I don't wan't to get literally
hundreds of junk emails every day again, which happen to me some
years ago (and it's heading that way again now).
Sure, your friends may not be spammers but what
about their friends and their friends' friends? In any case, there
could be fake email addresses that are deliberately 'out there' for the
sole purpose of collecting addresses from emails sent or forwarded with
lots of Cc addresses. Spammers have various ways of harvesting email
addresses. Not using Bcc makes it much easier for them.
Computer viruses have been
known to seize control of a computer's email programme to send out
messages to everyone on the address book, with attachments randomly
chosen from what's on your computer. Hence, I don't use an email
address book programme.
In email Re: or RE: does NOT mean 'in reference to,' as it used to in
letters in pre-internet times. It means 'in reply to' and is
automatically generated. If you type 'Re: your new job' the recipient
may waste ages searching through their Sent folder trying to find a
non-existent email they figure they must have sent to you called 'your
Give a bit of thought to subject lines, they need to relate very
clearly to the purpose or content of the email. If you have a lot of
emails back and forth from the same person try to alter each subject
line a little, it makes it so much easier to find emails and track the
discussion. Here's an example, from emails I sent. You can see how the
recipient's email programme has added "RE:" and how I've used square
brackets so the recipient can follow the thread:
Saw you at Midland
Traveling pianist [RE: Saw you at Midland]
Midland on Monday 26th [RE: Traveling pianist [RE:
Saw you at Midland]
There was a point in retaining the old subject lines because some of
the body text was also quoted. However, there is a danger that some
internet services will reject overly-long subject lines.
Large email attachments
This is not the major problem it used to be, but it can still
potentially cause problems. I had a problem a bit like this last week (August 2016). If a large file can't be downloaded
(because the connection times out, for example) the recipient may be
prevented from accessing subsequent emails until the large file comes
If you're sending photographs use an image programme to reduce
the file size to 72 dpi (dots per inch) and the picture size to 50%.
That can reduce it from about 2MB (2,000KB) down to 200KB, a huge
difference. On screen the picture quality will be exactly the same. To do this on my Apple Macintosh I use a free programme which can be found on the internet called Seashore, version 0.1.9 (20070402).
Use mixed case
USING UPPER CASE, ALSO KNOWN AS
BLOCK CAPITALS, LOOKS LIKE SHOUTING. (Same deal for
mobile phone texting.) Of course, there may be times you do want to
shout. BTW, in professional typesetting two spaces are used between
words when using block capitals, but this may not always be possible in
email and web pages.
Another point about block capitals: they're very difficult to
speed-read. In fast reading the shape of the word, in the visual sense,
is crucial. With block capitals all words have the same shape, thus
forcing the reader to closely and laboriously examine each word, almost
letter by letter. To a speed reader this is practically painful. Some
may think this makes it clearer to read, but if I see a whole page in
block capitals I'm tempted to give it a miss because it's just so hard.
It becomes TL;DR (too long, didn't read).
More about spaces
In the Good ol' Typewriter days it was normal to use two spaces after a
full stop. That's because the font was always monospaced (every letter
had the same width). However, with computers we don't generally use
monospaced fonts, so please only use ONE space after a full stop.
Give an indication of who wrote the original. If you wish to keep their
name or identity confidential, at least make it obvious that it was not
written by yourself.
don't do it. People may report you to their IT department if they
receive one of these from you. Your internet provider could even ban
you. There is a Facebook version of chain letters, the ones where the
creator of the original has tried to make people feel guilty, or appeal
to their superstitions, if they don't share a post. It's the same
technique and to me it's usually a big fail.
Further reading about netiquette
Griffith University (concise; includes a list of acronyms &
The Core Rules of Netiquette excerpted from a book by Virginia Shea:
Australian Library and Information Association:
Wikipedia on Cc:
Wikipedia on Bcc, and carbon versus courtesy:
Wikipedia on the history of netiquette:
Netiquette Guidelines, by the Responsible Use of the Network (RUN)
Working Group of the IETF (verbose and a bit old now):
Email, mailing lists, NetNews, interactive services (e.g. IRC):
Since May 2011 I've been living in the Perth hills, in the Shire of
Australia. Click on the links to learn
more or contact me by phone or email.
My mobile phone is 0414 374 701.
Recent and upcoming performances
& public appearances.
How to refer to Margaret