Electronic Mail Joke Passing Etiquette

E-mail is a great way to keep in touch with friends, family members, and coworkers. Many people love to do so by forwarding jokes to dozens, if not hundreds, of their address book contacts.

Before you become the humor distributor, please, PLEASE read the below etiquette suggestions, lest your e-mails may just find their ways to peoples’ virtual trash cans. Even worse, some people may stop reading your e-mails altogether if you don’t follow these guidelines:

1. Always give your e-mails subject lines or they may never be read, and some people may begin ignoring all your e-mails entirely.

Be as descriptive as possible, though don’t go overboard with multi-sentence subjects. You may want to consider starting subject lines with the word JOKE: or similar to let busy individuals know the e-mails aren’t urgent, but some people may have filters that automatically trash such messages.

2. DO NOT WRITE YOUR JOKES IN ALL CAPS! ‘Nuff said. Many people find this hard to read or consider such e-mails as “shouting”. Again, send too many of these e-mails and you’ll start getting ignored.

3. When sending e-mails to a group of people, use your e-mail website or software’s BCC (blind carbon copy) feature instead of using the CC (carbon copy) feature. This hides the recipient addresses from each other.

If I see an e-mail that was sent to 100 different people I’m much less likely to read it. Plus, blind carbon copy increases privacy as some people on your homegrown list would rather not have their addresses sent out to possible strangers.

4. Planning on sending jokes from the office? Your boss and IT staff can, and sometimes will (depending on company policy), read your e-mails! Avoid tasteless humor in the office. If you’re planning on sending a message with questionable taste, use your personal account from home and make sure to send to other peoples’ personal e-mail addresses. Better yet, don’t do it at all.

Note that e-mail can be permanent – just because you delete a message doesn’t mean it is gone forever. You don’t want to be remembered 10 years later for sending a tasteless e-mail message!

5. Never send e-mail attachments without first notifying the recipients that files are coming. Many spam filters, including those at the office, are deleting e-mail attachments without warning, and I personally will never open an attachment unless I am aware one is about to arrive. This is because the “from” address in e-mail messages can be easily spoofed. Plus, e-mail accounts can be hacked, allowing nefarious individuals to send e-mail, complete with malware-laced attachments, from other peoples’ accounts without their knowledge.

6. If a joke has been forwarded multiple times, please remove all of the annoying forwarding brackets “>”, else the message may become too confusing for people to read. It won’t take that long to do, and if you want, there’s even a website called Mr. Ed’s E-Mail Bracket Stripper that can help do the work for you.

7. If a joke or fact sounds too-good-to-be-true, it just might be. Check first to see if your e-mail is an urban legend by visiting the Snopes website.

Electronic mail does not have to be all work and no play (though it probably should be at the office), and occasional jokes provide a welcome diversion from the day-to-day humdrum. However, passing around jokes without following these etiquette rules might annoy people and get you ignored. Use a subject, AVOID ALL CAPS, and use blind carbon copy when sending to a group. Think twice before sending tasteless humor from the office or distributing file attachments. Remove extraneous forwarding brackets, and don’t be the person everyone talks about that always sends out urban legends thinking they are true. A little etiquette can go a long way, and minding one’s manners can help keep your e-mails read and enjoyed for years to come.