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E-mail is the simplest and most immediate function of the Internet for many people. Run through a list of questions that new e-mail users ask most and some snappy answers to them.

What is electronic mail? Electronic mail, or e-mail as it’s normally shortened to, is just a message that is composed, sent and read electronically (hence the name). With regular mail you write out your message (letter, postcard, whatever) and drop it off at the post office. The postal service then delivers the message and the recipient reads it. E-mail operates basically the same-way except that everything happens electronically. You compose your message using e-mail software, send it over the lines that connect the Internet’s networks and the recipient uses an e-mail program to read the message.

How does e-mail know to get where it’s going? Everybody who’s connected to the Internet is assigned a unique e-mail address. In a way, this address is a lot like the address of your house or apartment because it tells everyone else your exact location on the Net. So anyone who wants to send you an e-mail message just tells the e-mail program the appropriate address and runs the Send command. The Internet takes over from there and makes sure the missive arrives safety.

What’s this netiquette stuff I keep hearing about? The Net is a huge, unwieldy mass with no “powers-that-be” that can dictate content or standards. This is, for the most part, a good thing because it means there’s no censorship and no one can wield authority arbitrarily. To prevent this organized chaos from descending into mere anarchy, however, a set of guidelines has been put together over the years. These guidelines are known collectively as netiquette (network etiquette) and they offer suggestions on the correct way to interact with the Internet’s denizens. To give you a taste of netiquette, here are some highlights to consider.

- Keep your message brief and to the point and make sure you clear up any spelling slips or grammatical gaffes before shipping it out.

- Make sure the Subject lines of your message are detailed enough so they explain what your message is all about.

- Don’t SHOUT by writing your missives entirely in uppercase letters.

- Don’t bother other people by sending them test messages. If you must test a program, send a message to yourself.

What’s a flame? The vast majority of e-mail correspondence is civil and courteous, but with millions of participants all over the world, it’s inevitable that some folks will rub other the wrong way. When this happens, the combatants may exchange emotionally charged, caustic, often obscene messages called flames. When enough of these messages exchanges hands, an out-and-out flame war develops. These usually burn themselves out after a while, and then the participants can get back to more interesting things.

Is e-mail secure? In a word, no. The Net’s open architecture allows programmers to write interesting and useful new Internet services, but it also allows unscrupulous snoops to lurk where they don’t belong. In particular, the e-mail system has two problems: it’s not that hard for someone else to read your e-mail, and it’s fairly easy to forge an e-mail address. If security is a must for you, then you’ll want to create an industrial strength password for your home directory, use encryption for your most sensitive messages, and use an anonymous remailer when you want to send something incognito.


Exercise 16. Answer the questions.

1. What is e-mail for you? How often do you use it?

2. Do you imagine you life without the e-mail?

3. What major problems are there with the e-mail?

4. Are they opinions or facts?

5. Would it be a problem for you?

6. What do you think is the reason for the various bits of netiquette which are mentioned?

7. What is a flame? Have you ever been the target of the flame?

8. Is e-mail secure? How to make it so?


Exercise 17. Find at least 5 examples of a very colloquial and chatty style used in the text. Why are they used?

Exercise 18. For which of the following types of writing is it necessary to be brief?


Instructions, love letters, news reports, business proposals, faxes, adverts, insurance claims, curriculum vitae, short stories, scientific reports, e-mail, poems.


Exercise 19. Write a summary of the text. Include only the information, ignore any extra remarks. Write in a neutral rather than an informal style.


Exercise 20. E-mailers also keep their message brief by abbreviating frequently used phrases. Complete these common phrases:


AAMOF as a m… of f…
AFAIK as f… as I k…
FYI for your i…
FYA f… y… am…
IMO in my o…
IOW in o… words
NRN not r… necessary
TTYL talk to y… l…
FAQ f… a… question(s)
BTW by t… w…
LOL KHYF la… o… loud k… ho… y… fe…
IMHO in my h… o…
WYSIWYG what y… see is w… y… g…
RTFM read the f… m…


Exercise 21. Study the following information and dictate the e-mail address to your partner.


E-mail messages usually have the following format:

To: (Name and e-mail address of recipient)

From: (Name and e-mail address of sender)

Subject: (Identification of main point of message)

Here is an example of an e-mail address:

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