Realities of E-Mail
Electronic mail is a relatively new form of communication
providing advanced capabilities for information exchange,
processing transactions, broadcasting announcements and
carrying on simple conversation. But as with anything
new, certain myths and unrealistic expectations have
Following are some of realities of e-mail, as well as some
tips for improved communication.
- E-mail is not instantaneous communication.
most messages are delivered within a matter of
minutes, delays of hours--sometimes days--are not
uncommon. E-mail messages pass through many
computers and networks in their journey from
sender to recipient, with delivery time subject to
the slowest link in this chain. Excessive network
traffic anywhere in the process can significantly
slow the delivery of e-mail messages.
- E-mail is not secure.
- Because messages pass
through many computers and networks, there are
many opportunities for them to be read--despite
rules and policies to the contrary. While e-mail is
seldom read by unauthorized persons, you can
never go wrong by assuming e-mail is only as
private as a postcard. Remember, the recipient can
easily forward or redistribute e-mail to any number
of people without the sender's knowledge or
- E-mail can be altered.
- E-mail messages can be
forged so they appear to come from someone else,
and the content of messages may be altered after
they have been received. This is a rare event but
not technically difficult, just as it is not difficult to
forge printed correspondence.
- E-mail is not anonymous.
- Most e-mail messages can be
traced back to their original source.
- E-mail is subject to disclosure laws.
E-mail is considered a document under California
law that may be disclosed during litigation or in a
court of law.
Deleting an e-mail message may not
erase all copies of the message: the sender or
recipients may still have a copy, or a copy may
have been saved on someone's backup tape and
thus still discloseable in a court of law.
- E-mail sent by a university employee may be
disclosed to the public under the California Public
- Be careful when sending replies to messages.
- Using the automatic reply feature when responding
to a message sent to a number of recipients may
mean your reply will go to all recipients of the
original message, including everyone on an
extensive mailing list. Always inspect the "to" and
"cc" e-mail addresses immediately before sending
- Attaching documents can be tricky.
- When attaching documents, it is helpful to also
insert the text into the body of your message
because your recipient's e-mail system may not
have the ability to translate your attached
- Be cognizant of your computer system's
- The e-mail server (computer) on
which your e-mail resides may have storage quotas
or time limitations.
- Let senders know you have received their
message, even if you can't respond in-depth
- Choose words carefully as you would in any
- Recipients cannot see you
and lack the visual clues to tell when you are
- Do not send messages in all capital letters:
- IT LOOKS LIKE YOU'RE SHOUTING!
Based on an
in the May 29, 1996 issue of UCI-News.