RFC - e-mail in tough environments

Matthias Kirschner mk at fsfe.org
Wed Dec 9 19:05:02 UTC 2009

Hi all,

I just published a blog entry [1]. Although I explained this topic a lot
of times in the past I never wrote down the most basic principles of
e-mail usage. Now I finally did it so I can point friends who are news
in the Free Software community to this short guide. If you find it
useful I will add it to wiki.fsfe.org.

    Would you go to a job interview in your sweatpants? Would you sent
    your CV with handwritten corrections? If you answer those questions
    with no, you might also want to write professional e-mails. The Free
    Software community is a tough environment when it comes to e-mail
    usage. This short guide tries to help you that the community
    perceive you as a professional communicator.
    - *Quotation* As a general rule: Do not quote the whole e-mail
      again, neither above your message, below or in the middle. Quote
      only the parts which are necessary. Use inline replying (for
      examples see Wikipedia’s article on posting style [2]) and trim
      messages if possible.
    - *Subject* Choose a good meaningful subject line. “e-mail”, “help”,
      “hello”, or “questions” are not good subjects ;). When the topic
      of an e-mail changes, it helps to change the subject, too. Often
      it is beneficial to separated threads into different thread with
      different subjects.
    - *Line break of e-mails* Should be around 72 characters. Nobody
      will kill you if it is 70 or 74 or even 76. But a lot of people
      will get angry if you do not have a line break at all.
    - *E-Mail signature* Keep it small and simple. Signatures longer
      than five lines should be avoided. The separated for the signature
      is “– ” (minus minus blank) and then line break. The blank is
      important as many e-mail programs then know that it is a
    - *Mailinglists* Use list-reply. It is not necessary to include the
      sender in To: or Cc: if he is subscribed. If the e-mail programs
      are configured correct the sender will be Cc’ed if he is not
      subscribed or wishes to be Cc’ed.
    - *Forwarding e-mails* When you forward e-mails try to give a short
      summary of the e-mail. Forwarding a huge e-mail thread to a list
      with only “FYI” will make you no friends.
    - *General remark* The better you structure an e-mail and the better
      you present the content — the higher is the chance that people
      will read your e-mail.

If you like it you can also vote for it on fsdaily [3].

Looking forward to your comments,

  1. http://blogs.fsfe.org/mk/?p=405
  2. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Posting_style
  3. http://www.fsdaily.com/Beginner/E_mail_usage_in_the_Free_Software_community

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