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Email Basics for Beginners: Small Business Email for Newbies

September 23, 2009

Email Basics
Part one of ten

By Shelley Lowery
Electronic mail, better known as email, is the most important tool used on the Internet. It’s much faster than snail mail, less expensive and enables you to instantly communicate with your visitors and customers.

Although most Internet Service Providers include email accounts for their customers, these accounts really aren’t adequate for a Internet business — especially if you get a large amount of email. Not only do the email addresses contain your ISP’s name, but they are also very limited on features and options.

There are many email programs available on the Internet. However, the best program I’ve found is Eudora. Eudora is a standalone email program that works with any ISP. It will enable you to easily organize your email by filtering your messages into specific mailboxes. This feature alone can save you a great deal of time. What’s more, your email address will be your own domain — not someone else’s.

One of my favorite features is the ability to create an unlimited number of personalities. What this means is that you can specify the “from” address depending on the message you’re writing. For example, if you’re answering a support request, you can set up a personality that displays support@yourdomain.com or whatever you’d like as the “from” address. Best of all, it’s free. For further information about Eudora, visit: http://www.eudora.com

Basic Email Guidelines

Although writing an email message may seem simple, there are some important issues that need to be taken into consideration.

Subject Line

The subject of your email is the most important part of your message. Your subject should be short and provide a summary as to what your message is all about. This is especially important if you need to grab your readers’ attention. For example, if you send out a mailing to your ezine subscribers, you want the subject to instantly grab their attention and intrigue them to open your message. Just because they subscribe, doesn’t mean they’ll actually read your publication.

Cc / Bcc

When sending a message to more than one person, make sure you never place the additional email addresses within the Carbon Copy section. If you do, all of your recipients will see the list of email addresses. Instead, place the addresses within the Blind Carbon Copy section. The addresses won’t be visible when your recipients receive your message.

Formatting

Although there has been a great deal of controversy over the best email format — HTML or text, text is still the best option. HTML messages may look nice; however, not all of your readers will be capable of viewing your message. If you’d really like to use HTML, the best way to accommodate all of your readers is to create two versions and allow your readers to make the choice.

Line Length

When you begin typing your email message, keep in mind, some email programs don’t automatically wrap the text. What this means is that although your message may look great to you, your email recipient may receive your message as one long sentence or it may look something like this:

Thank you for your interest in our products. We are dedicated to providing you with quality products to assist you in your endeavors.

To prevent this problem, limit your line length to less than 65 characters per line. This can be accomplished by using a hard carriage return (hit enter) at the end of each line.

Linking

When placing web addresses within an email message, some email programs will automatically create live links with web addresses beginning with “www.” However, other email programs will only create live links when the web address begins with http://. To alleviate this problem, always include the full URL beginning with http://.

The America Online email program is in a class of its own. Their email program won’t create live links with any form of web address. In order to create a live link within AOL, you must include a complete HTML link. To accommodate all of your readers, consider including two links for each URL — one beginning with http:// and the other with the complete HTML link code.

When including an email address within an email message, always include “mailto:” directly in front of the email address. This will enable most email programs to create a live email link. AOL will require the complete “mailto:” HTML code.

An important consideration is the use of punctuation with web addresses — especially periods. Some email programs will include periods within a live link. When clicked on, the browser will return an error. There are a couple of ways to alleviate this problem. You can enclose your web address with brackets and place a period after the closing bracket <http://www.yourdomain.com>. Or, you can place your web address on a separate line like this: <http://www.yourdomain.com>

When including a long web address within your message, some email programs will force part of the URL to the next line. When the live link is created, only a portion of the URL will be live. When clicked on, the browser will return an error. To avoid this problem, try to keep your web addresses short. If necessary, you may want to consider creating a redirect HTML page with a shorter URL.

The appearance of your email message is an important part of your professional image. If you follow these simple guidelines, you can almost completely alleviate these potential problems.

Copyright ?? Shelley Lowery 2002.
About the Author:

This article was adapted from the highly acclaimed ebook series, Web Design Mastery. Web Design expert and author Shelley Lowery’s latest ebook is an in-depth guide to professional web design that is rapidly becoming known as the “Bible” for professional web design. http://www.webdesignmastery.com

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