I’m in shock mostly because Frederick doesn’t teach the elderly, and he doesn’t teach K-12. Frederick is an Assistant Professor of English at a Community College. He teaches college students. You know, the “Millennials,” the Wunderkinder of social media. Yeah, them.
So, what is the deal with email? Why don’t they know how to use it? It is, after all, a basic digital skill. But, as I thought it over, I realized that my teen kids don’t really email. So, perhaps email passed them by? Their generation wasn’t taught computer skills in school–so what they know, they know in order survive socially: they use Snapchat, they text, they Facebook Message, they Tweet–but they don’t email.
Perhaps all that time I spent banging my head on my desk wondering why my students never checked their email had to do more with their lack of digital skills than it had to do with them just being annoying? Wow. OK. So, I thought I would post a primer about how to email, just in case email passed you by.
How to Send an EMAIL
You have to have an email provider. Some of us older folks have email through our work, or we have email through our cable company. If you don’t have a job or an cable company, you may get email through your school or you might need to establish an account with an online company.
Almost everyone is familiar with Google Mail, known affectionately as “GMAIL,” but that isn’t the only choice! You can establish email through various companies–both paid and unpaid. A caveat here, though: if you don’t pay for it, it means you are willing to allow the company who provides that service free access to a lot of what you might consider private. But that’s your business. ( If you participate in one of the “Domain of One’s Own” programs in many of the colleges, or you have a blog-site you pay for, you may have an email address from your own domain.)
A lot of you also have a quaint little program on your computer and your phone that handles email for you. In order to set up those accounts, you just input your email information. Email usually falls into one of two categories: POP and IMAP. POP stands for “Post Office Protocol,” and IMAP stands for “Internet Message Access Protocol.” Most of the time, when you set up your phone or computer, the program will lead you through the steps you need to take to receive email on your device. However, if you have questions, you can usually find information about the type of email program you have and the best way to set it up from your internet service provider (ISP).
OK, so after you establish your email, you need to compose your first message. I am going to share directions for GMAIL because it is the most common service out there. Most email programs have a similar interface.
- Open your email program. If you have set it up on your device, this is simple. If you have not, go to the application or the address for your email program and sign in. (If you have never signed in before, you will need to establish your password and recovery options. It may take you a few minutes.)
- Click “Compose”: This will give you the editing menu so that you can write your email.
- Address your EMAIL: You will see a “To” area at the top of the composition area. You must enter an email address for the person want to send an email to. If you just want to practice, you can email yourself. Just put your own email address in the “TO” area.
- Add any CC or BCC addresses you want to include: “CC” is shorthand for “Carbon Copy” or “Courtesy Copy.” If you put someone’s address here, it means you are sending them a copy of the email because they should see it, but it written to them. “BCC” means “Blind Carbon Copy.” If you put someone’s address in “BCC,” it means that only you and the BCC recipient will know you sent the email to them. This is like slipping a copy of your email to someone secretly without anyone else on the email list knowing about it. (I usually use this option when I need to cover my a**.)
- Add a Subject: This should give a hint as to what is in the email. Be specific or your recipient’s spam filter may send your email to the great beyond. For example, don’t use the subject “Hi there!” as it is too general. Even for a casual email, be more specific: “A follow up ‘hello!’ after our technology meeting on Aug. 15” will make sure your email gets to the intended target.
- Write your EMAIL: Email is more formal than a text message or a note. If this is the first email to someone, or it is a formal correspondence between you and an employer, professor, teacher, or other contact–use formal letter-writing style (more about this below). If it is a casual correspondence between friends, be a bit more specific and extensive in your email. You are not limited by characters or time. Use the space you have to communicate in full sentences.
- Include Attachments: If you are sending pictures, documents, or files, click on the little paper-clip icon and either upload or double-click on the file you want. If you are using GMAIL, and you want to include a Google Drive Folder, it is a very easy process to attach those drive items as well.
- Check your EMAIL: Is everything spelled correctly? Did you say what you wanted to say? (My advice–read it aloud to someone else before you send it!) Did you include any attachment you wanted to add??
- Send your EMAIL: Click “send,” or the little paper airplane icon after you have finished composing your email.
How to Write an Email
- Salutation: This is how you start a formal email. Don’t just launch into your message. You must address this correctly with a salutation:
- “Dear _______,” is the most common form of salutation. Stick with it unless you really know the person.
- Unless you are writing someone you KNOW how to address “Dr. Kassorla, Mrs. Smith,” etc., use their first and last names without a title: “Dear Mary Smith,” This is the safest way to go.
- If you don’t know who you are addressing, try to stay away from “To Whom it May Concern,” and go with something a bit more specific like “Dear Hiring Committee,” or “Dear Google Sales Team,” This is friendlier and easier to relate to.
- Message: Always begin with who you are and why you are writing, “I’m Michelle Kassorla, your English Professor, and I am writing to tell you I have finished grading your second paper.” This is both polite and time-saving. Then go into more detail if you wish, “I would like to meet with you after class on Wednesday to talk about your revision plan.”
- Check To See If It’s Right: Always read it over. If you can, read it aloud to someone else to make sure everything is right. Check for spelling and punctuation.
- Attachments: Attach documents, pictures, or videos by clicking on the paperclip icon. You can also easily add attachments from Google Drive if you have a GMAIL account.
- Close: “Sincerely,” is still the safest way to close. I have also seen “Warmly,” and “Thank You,” work pretty well. If it is formal, stick with “Sincerely.”
- Signature: Obviously, you can’t sign this because it is an email, but you should include your name, and how to contact you for a follow up. A lot of EMAIL program contain automatic signatures. You can set that up, or you can just type in your name, phone number, address, etc. I usually include some ways to message me in addition to adding that my phone number is a cell/text number.
- Send: Check again to make sure everything is correct. Make sure you have attached all the attachments. Click the “send” (the little icon that looks like a paper airplane).
Answering or Forwarding EMAIL
There are two options to answering email “Reply,” and “Reply All.” It is always best to simply “Reply,” unless you are emailing to a group or team.
- Click the “Reply” or “Reply All.”
- Use the same protocol you would apply to a regular e-mail. If it is formal, answer it formally. If it is casual and requires only a few words to answer, answer in a few words.
- Make sure you have included any attachments you want to include.
- Click “Send.”
To Forward EMAIL–click on downward pointing arrow next to the circular “reply” arrow in the right hand top corner of the email. Once you click you should be given a number of options.
- Choose “forward.”
- Enter the recipient
- Enter a message to the person to whom you are forwarding the email.
- Click “send.”