by Barb Shelton



Help for those new to the world of email!



Email can be a lot of fun, time saving, a means of keeping in touch with loved ones, and a very efficient tool for doing business.  And it isn't that hard to learn how to do!  But it can feel very overwhelming and confusing when you're not yet familiar with it.


Because all email programs are different, I can't help you with the details of your particular program, but I can offer you a little help for the actual writing and formatting of your emails, as well as help explain some of the "cyber lingo" being used!  It's actually very fun and easy, so I hope this article will help open up this "new world" to you a bit more!


First, let's talk about "formatting."  This is just the basic way the email is set up.  For instance, in writing a regular letter that you'd mail via "snail mail" (which refers to the postal service because it's so much slower than email!), there are some basic formatting styles you'd use.  You probably learned those in Typing 101.  Likewise there are a few formats that are universally accepted and understood ways of writing and responding to emails.  I'll share two of those with you here.


When responding to an email, one format is to put what the person wrote ~ called "quoted text" (text is just "plain old typing" and you know what "quoted" means) ~ inside double arrows: <<like this>>  or brackets: {{like this}}  ...and then respond to that.  You can do this by quoting the whole block of the text you're responding to, or you can do it in pieces, one thought at a time, which is what I do.


I also add a row of several periods right after those last two arrows only because it's easier to spot where I start talking.  So here's what it would look like:



     {{ I'm hoping to be able to come to the meeting on Saturday!}}.................Great!  Hope you can come!



See how I didn't have to repeat anything?  I just copied and pasted that section, "bracketed" it, and then answered.  This gets to be second nature.  You certainly don't have to use this format, it's just very very handy for the reader, so they can know exactly what you're referring to when responding. It's much easier-to-understand, a more "conversational" (and therefore friendly) way of writing, and is especially handy for those of us who handle hundreds of emails a week and have a short memory!    People often come back, responding to an email from me, and say something like: "Sure! That'd be great!" and since that was 48 emails ago, I haven't got a CLUE as to what they're talking about, so I have to go back and hunt through my emails (IF I haven't already deleted it!) and find out what in the world they were talking about!  

[I need to explain the difference between using the <<arrows>> and the {{brackets}}.  The double arrows are commonly used, but there is sometimes a problem with them.  In HTML language, which is what web pages are made with, the double arrows are read as (putting it into layman's terms which is all I understand!):  "hide whatever words are inside these double arrows."  So, depending on how your particular email program "reads," those arrows, anything you are quoting inside double arrows may or may not actually appearing in your recipient's email!]

OK, the other format for quoting text is one that is automatically done by your email program, and that is a single arrow > at the beginning of each line of quoted text.  Like this:




This is fine too. My email program (on AOL) gives us both options, and I just happen to prefer the double-arrow format. If you have to do it manually, double arrows at the beginning and end are much faster than putting an arrow in front of each line.


A quick note about punctuation:  There is never a space before a period, comma, semicolon, exclamation mark, question mark.  I'm amazed at how many do this, one common confusing result of which is when the end of the sentence is at the end of a line...  the last word of the sentence is at the end of the line and the punctuation ends up at the beginning of the next line.  Just keep them together.  
There are lots of expressive faces that add humor and expression to a text-only note. Like these over in the next column, for example: 



Key to

Common Email Faces


:-)   =  your basic smile


;-D   =  laughing/chuckling

;-)   =  smiling and winking
}-)   =  smiling with eyes closed;

maybe blushing or sleeping

with sweet dreams
{:-/    =  puzzled or baffled


}:-/   =  frustrated


}:-(   =  angry
}-Q   =  sleeping and drooling
8^O   =  surprised look

<g>   =  grin 
(when using the face doesn't work

or you're already inside parentheses)
<G> = big wide grin




There are ALL sorts of these little faces, and you can even make up your own!    And I always put 3 or 4 spaces before and after my faces so they don't look like part of the punctuation and are easily noticed.
Also, you might want to be aware that A CONTINUOUS USE OF ALL-CAPS is considered YELLING. So TRY TO AVOID that unless you're REALLY wanting to be heard or make a STRONG point.  ;-)  If used for just one word, it's the same as bold; a little stronger. 
And putting asterisks (*) around anything (usually just a word or short phrase) is the same as italicizing it for emphasis. 
A chuckle: I was already familiar with "Lifestyle of Learning" (an approach to homeschooling) and commonly abbreviated it as "LOL" long before I started doing email.  So the commonly-used email abbreviation of "LOL" was a bit confusing to me when I first saw it in an email, and I knew they weren't talking about Lifestyle of Learning! In email land, LOL means "Laughing Out Loud"!  So when in "mixed company," like on forums, I use "L of L" instead of "LOL" to refer to Lifestyle of Learning. (Or just write it out.) And I usually do the laughing face:   ;-D  for "laughing out loud."  FWIW!  ("for what it's worth)   ;-) 
And lastly, here's a "KEY" for several of the common email abbreviations that you'll see in emails, "chat rooms," websites, BBS's (Bulletin Board Services), etc.:



Key to

Common Email Terms


(Any of these that are in capital

letters could also be put in lower case)
BTW = By The Way

BFN  =  Bye For Now
BRB  =  Be Right Back
FYI = For Your Information

FWIW = For What It's Worth
IM(H)O = In My (Humble) Opinion
ROFL = Rolling On Floor Laughing
TIA or TA = Thanks In Advance
LOL = Laughing Out Loud
TTYL = Talk To You Later

TIFN = That's It For Now

dh = dear husband

dw = dear wife

dc = dear children

dd = dear daughter

ds = dear son




The cute e-mailbox came from:


   The lovely rose background came from:



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