Thing 14: Email

In this thing you will learn how to manage, organise and work securely with email.

Open Badge information

Open Badge: SSSC 23 Things Digital – Thing 14: Email.

Counts towards: SSSC 23 Things Digital – Digital Communicator.

Introduction

The extent to which email (electronic mail) plays a role in your day-to-day work depends on your organisation but also on your particular job role and how you manage your emails. Email came before the internet and is still the primary method of online communication, particularly for business and work. Although it has been around for a long time (early versions of email were used in the 1960s) many people don’t use and manage their email effectively.

Instructions

a) Message header, Message body, Attachments.

There are two parts to an email – the Message header and the Message body.

The Message header part of an email contains the following information, as well as other important data.

  • To: the email address(es) and usually the name(s) of the people getting the email.
  • From: the email address (and usually the name) of the sender.
  • Cc: Carbon copy – email addresses who also receive a copy of the email for information but are not the primary recipients.
  • Bcc: Blind carbon copy – this is similar to ‘cc’ as above, except that only the sender can see who has bcc-ed into an email.
  • Subject line: This line is used to tell the people getting the email the subject matter.
  • To use email effectively it’s important to understand how these parts of the email work. For example, you may want to send an email to multiple people but for data protection purposes, do not want everyone to have access to each other’s email addresses.

The Message body of an email contains the text and any other content that you want to send. This is where you write the actual content of the email.

Attachments are files which you attach to an email. Typical attachments include Word documents, PDF documents, pictures, audio clips, video clips. Most mail servers have limits of the size of files you can attach to an email (usually around15MB). Your employer may have a higher or lower limits set.

You should always take care when opening attachments, as they aren’t always what they seem to be. You could seriously compromise the security of your device and network by opening a dangerous file, which might contain a computer virus. At the very least you should run a virus-scan on attachments before opening them, especially if you don’t recognise the sender. Your work email usually does this automatically, but there are many free anti-virus programmes such as AVG Antivirus available to download to help protect your system.

b) Reply, Reply All and Forward.

  • Reply: creates an email which will be only be sent to the sender of the email you are replying to. The subject line will be automatically generated for you. For example, if you received an email with subject line ‘Holiday plans’, the subject line of your response would be ‘Re: Holiday plans’.
  • Reply All: creates an email which will be sent to all the addresses listed in the ‘To’ field and the ‘cc’ field of the original email. The Reply All function can be the source of much frustration for people. You should stop and think before using this function. Do you want all these people to see your response? Do all these people really need to see your response?
  • The Reply and Reply All functions do not send emails to people who were blind carbon-copied into the original email.
  • Forward: Creates a new email using the content from an email you have received. This function is helpful if you want to share information you have received with someone else, however you must take care to make sure you don’t forward any information to someone who is not supposed to get it. For example, you shouldn’t forward anything containing confidential information about your organisation, or people who use services, to personal contacts outwith your organisation.

c) Junk and spam.

Junk and spam email are similar in the way they take up space in your inbox but there are differences between the two.

Junk email is usually email which you receive but aren’t particularly interested in. It might be an email from a company whose services you have used in the past and as a result you are now on their mailing list. Receiving lots of junk mail can be frustrating.

Spam email tends to be unwanted emails from a variety of sources. You will usually have no link with the sender at all, although they may use your name in an attempt to fool you into opening the email. Spam email is not only frustrating but can also be dangerous.

Never click a link in an email taking you to a login page for services such as online banking or PayPal, as it’s likely your information will be stolen.Opening these types of links can also open you up to viruses, even if the links look genuine.

To help manage junk and spam most email providers and applications offer a range of options. Use the links below to find information on how to use filters to keep your inbox free from junk and spam.

Microsoft Outlook/Outlook Express

Microsoft Outlook.com/Live/Hotmail

Gmail/Google Mail

Apple Devices – Mac/iPad/iPhone

d) Organise your emails using folders.

It doesn’t take long for most people to feel overwhelmed by the number of emails they receive. Simply managing emails becomes a task in itself and this can distract from other areas of your work and learning.

Using folders (Outlook), mailboxes (Apple Mail) and labels (Gmail), to organise your emails will help you organise things. You can move emails as they come into your inbox to the appropriate folder so they’re easy to find again.

A good rule of thumb is to have an empty inbox by the end of the day – that is you have dealt with or filed into the appropriate folder all the emails you got that day.

So which folders should I set up?

There are lots of different systems people use to help organise their email. Some people prefer to set up lots different folders and organise their emails by subject or by sender.

For example, you might set up folders for the following:

  • family
  • friends
  • work
  • college/university
  • SVQ
  • online shopping.

In these folders, you can have other folders to help further organise their contents. For example, in your online shopping folder, you might set up separate folders for eBay, Amazon etc.

Some advocate a five-folder system. This involves organising your emails by deadlines rather than subject. Using this system means your emails would be organised as follows:

  • Inbox (newly arrived emails which haven’t been sorted yet)
  • Needs action today
  • Needs action this week
  • Needs action this month/quarter
  • FYI (for information).

It’s worth spending a bit of time thinking about how to organise your emails. It can save you a lot of time and frustration and help you feel in control.

NB Your employer may have its own rules regarding how work email should be organised, stored and archived, so you should make sure you are familiar with these.

Use the links below to find information on how to create folders in the mail application you use.

Microsoft Outlook/Live/Hotmail

Gmail/Google Mail

Apple Mail on a Mac

Apple Mail on an iPhone/iPad

e) Blog.

Write a blog post of at least 100 words reflecting on the above activities and something you’ve learned in the process. Detail how you currently manage your emails and how effective you find this. Your blog should also outline how you could use the Bcc function to send the same email to 10 different people, keeping their contact details private so the recipients don’t see each other’s email addresses.

Image credit: Email shiny icon, CC0 1.0 Public Domain.

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