Common email mistakes

5 Email Tips Everyone Should Know Before Forwarding Mail

Email is not free. It never has been. Surprisingly, the average office worker spends one fourth of their workday reading and responding to email. To stop one of the biggest culprits of wasted inbox space, help everyone understand five email basics before forwarding  mail of any kind.

5 Things to Know Before Forwarding Mail to Anyone

1 – Check for Accuracy on Snopes

Most importantly, the frantic emails with breaking information are usually false. Before forwarding mail, research the facts at

[callout] Tech Tip: Any time you get an “urgent warning” from someone via email, ask yourself if you know the person who claims this experience. Is this a friend of a friend of a friend or someone you know?

Keep in mind, sometimes real things happen to real people and email can be a great way to prevent your friends in an area where scammers are operating from being taken. Take examples like the flyer in the carjacking ploy  to be alerted that all that is urgent is not so. In this case, the previous carjacking example has been flying through people's inboxes in some form since 2004. Do your research and stop the madness![/callout]

You harm your credibility when you don't check your facts! When you forward a hoax email, you show that you don’t confirm the accuracy of what you repeat. (It makes us wonder what else you tell us that you don't verify, for example, gossip.) To keep your credibility, tell everyone the corrected information when you find proof that your earlier email is false.

2 – Change the Subject Line

Getting messages that say Fw: Fw: Fw: Fw: (Like Mistake #1 above) show that the last four people who forwarded the message didn’t change the subject line. To clearly help your friends know what is in the message, change the subject (and remove the Fw’s.)

3 – Add a Comment on the Email

Readers want to understand why messages from you are important. (See Mistake #3 above.) So, if you’re too busy to comment about something by typing your thoughts at the top, don’t forward. I've even seen people who forwarded to 20 people without reading it first. Now they have wasted the time of another 20 people. How rude!

4 – Delete the Emails on the Message

Would you give your friends’ phone numbers to strangers? Many don’t know when they forward without deleting email addresses at the top of the message body, they’re doing the same thing with email. Eventually, when those long messages with everyone’s emails fall in the hands of con artists, everyone on that message will have their email sold to spammers or identity thieves.

In mistake #2 above, the sender of the message included everyone's email and the previous sender did too! I've seen forwarded emails with hundreds of email addresses – ripe for email harvesters to grab them.

[callout]Tech Tip: This practice is called email harvesting and is also why listing emails publicly on a website is a bad idea. That is why you'll see people spell out their email like vicki [at] coolcatteacher [dot] com instead of typing the address. [/callout]

In other words, when someone gets your forward, the words of what you are forwarding should be at the top of the message – nothing else. They shouldn’t scroll down until eternity comes to read your message. (See Mistake #4 above.)  Additionally, they should never see anyone else’s emails.

5 – Protect Email Privacy: Use Blind Carbon Copy (BCC) for Distribution Lists

Understandably, people get angry when their private email is shared without permission. To explain this point further, when an organization sends a message to everyone without using BCC, everyone on the message sees your email address. (See example #2) If he was included in the message, crazy old Uncle Bosephus can now fill everyone’s inboxes with his information that aliens are going to land in town square a week from Sunday.

Click the BCC to send a blind carbon copy. This practice comes from typewriter days when they would make a carbon copy that went to someone not listed on the memo or letter — or a blind copy. It is perfectly acceptable practice to use this for distribution emails, however, if sending an email to a few people, it is best practice for everyone to know who they are (unless they would mind the others seeing their emails.)

Here’s a trick to send messages to large groups while protecting privacy. Email recipients have your email in the From: line, so type yours in the To: box as well. Then, put your friends’ emails in the Bcc: box. As a result, the only email message that shows is yours in the To: box. You’ve protected your friend’s privacy as you email a group.

[callout]Tech Tip: Most email programs will limit you to 50 people on a message, so if you want to use more, create a distribution group of some kind. If you do this a lot with your personal email and someone reports you as a spammer, your email may get “blacklisted” by others, making it impossible for them to get your message. This is why professional organizations should use Mailchimp or Aweber instead for their mailings. If one person gets marked a spammer, it could impact everyone in the organization.[/callout]

So, friends, think before you forward. Time is money. Don’t waste either.

And hey, while you're at it, maybe you should forward this to your fast forwarding friends. ;-)

[callout]This article was adapted from one I published in my newspaper column for the Camilla Enterprise/ Pelham Journal. If you think your local newspaper might be interested in syndicating my column, ask them to contact me. I believe that the only way to combat cyber criminals is to start doing a better job of educating everyone on technology in simple ways. It will make stronger communities. [/callout]

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Vicki Davis

Vicki Davis is a full-time classroom teacher and IT Director in Georgia, USA. She is Mom of three, wife of one, and loves talking about the wise, transformational use of technology for teaching and doing good in the world. She hosts the 10 Minute Teacher Podcast which interviews teachers around the world about remarkable classroom practices to inspire and help teachers. Vicki focuses on what unites us -- a quest for truly remarkable life-changing teaching and learning. The goal of her work is to provide actionable, encouraging, relevant ideas for teachers that are grounded in the truth and shared with love. Vicki has been teaching since 2002 and blogging since 2005. Vicki has spoken around the world to inspire and help teachers reach their students. She is passionate about helping every child find purpose, passion, and meaning in life with a lifelong commitment to the joy and responsibility of learning. If you talk to Vicki for very long, she will encourage you to "Relate to Educate" or "innovate like a turtle" or to be "a remarkable teacher." She loves to talk to teachers who love their students and are trying to do their best. Twitter is her favorite place to share and she loves to make homemade sourdough bread and cinnamon rolls and enjoys running half marathons with her sisters. You can usually find her laughing with her students or digging into a book.

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