Use e-mail ef­fec­tively

Are you us­ing e-mail prop­erly? Seven tips on get­ting it right.

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - Technology - By BENEDIKT WENCK

IN­VOICES, book­ing con­fir­ma­tions, plane tick­ets, ad­ver­tis­ing – chances are that dozens of e-mail mes­sages will pop up in your mail­box ev­ery day. With this on­slaught of in­for­ma­tion, it can be dif­fi­cult to stay on top of ev­ery­thing.

De­spite competition from mes­sen­ger ser­vices, the num­ber of e-mail ad­dresses is still in­creas­ing ev­ery year. Ac­cord­ing to es­ti­mates by e-mail ser­vice providers and GMX, 625.8 bil­lion mes­sages were sent in Germany alone over the past year.

How­ever, some peo­ple are still fail­ing to get to grips with e-mail mes­sages. Here are seven tips for more clar­ity and en­hanced se­cu­rity.

The pur­pose

E-mail is not al­ways the best op­tion for business com­mu­ni­ca­tions. “E-mail is the top choice when it comes to bind­ing and track­able cor­re­spon­dence,” says the e-mail eti­quette man­ual of Ger­man in­dus­try as­so­ci­a­tion Bitkom. Com­pa­nies may need to ar­chive and store business mail. In­stant mes­sag­ing and so­cial me­dia may there­fore be a bet­ter choice for ar­rang­ing a lunch meet­ing or a quick dig­i­tal chat.

The KISS prin­ci­ple

Stands for “keep it short and sim­ple”. If you’re writ­ing an e-mail, try to keep it brief and con­cise, rec­om­mends the Bitkom man­ual. For the sake of clar­ity, each mail should only con­tain one topic, which should also be in­cluded in the sub­ject line.

Many peo­ple use the In­box as a task list. If you have rea­son to be­lieve that the re­cip­i­ent won’t give your e-mail a great deal of at­ten­tion, keywords can also be marked in bold – but don’t go over­board.

The sig­na­ture

Users can cre­ate a sig­na­ture in e-mail pro­grams that will au­to­mat­i­cally ap­pear be­low each mail. The same rule ap­plies here: Keep ev­ery­thing to a min­i­mum. In most cases, em­ploy­ers will pro­vide a cor­po­rate sig­na­ture. Pri­vate e-mail mes­sages can also carry a sig­na­ture – but these should only con­tain text and im­por­tant in­for­ma­tion, plus an op­tional short greet­ing.

The se­cu­rity

E-mail mes­sages are of­ten used for spam­ming and spread­ing ma­li­cious soft­ware. Sim­ple guide­lines can help you pro­tect your­self from this. “Don’t open any mes­sages from un­known senders. Don’t open any at­tach­ments if you don’t know where they come from – par­tic­u­larly ar­chives such as ZIP or RAR files,” says Julian Graf of the North-Rhine West­phalia Con­sumer Pro­tec­tion Cen­tre.

The pass­word

Even more im­por­tant is choos­ing a se­cure pass­word, says Graf. “Your mail­box is at the cen­tre of your di­gac­count ital life – ev­ery is linked to it.” If a hacker has ac­cess to your mail­box, it’s usu­ally not too dif­fi­cult to crack other re­lated ac­counts at Ama­zon, Pay­pal or Face­book.

Ac­cord­ing to the Ger­man Fed­eral Of­fice for In­for­ma­tion Se­cu­rity (BSI), se­cure pass­words should be eight to 12 char­ac­ters long and con­tain up­per and lower-case letters, numbers and spe­cial char­ac­ters.

Make sure you stay clear of names of fam­ily mem­bers and other easy-to-guess com­bi­na­tions. egu­lar vis­its to the Iden­tity Leak Checker of the Hasso Plat­tner In­sti­tute or the web­site “haveibeen­” will in­form you whether your data may al­ready have been stolen.

The en­cryp­tion

“An e-mail is like a post­card”, says the Bitkom man­ual. For crim­i­nals, it’s rel­a­tively easy to ac­cess un­en­crypted mail, whereas only the sender and the re­cip­i­ent are able to read the con­tent when end-to-end en­cryp­tion is used.

For this to work, how­ever, they must also ex­change their crypto keys. This is a bit com­pli­cated and keeps many from en­crypt­ing their mails.

Dis­pos­able ac­count

Many ser­vices on the In­ter­net re­quire an e-mail ad­dress to cre­ate an ac­count. If you’re only plan­ning on us­ing the ac­count once, you may want to opt for a dis­pos­able ad­dress. These are tem­po­rary mail ac­counts, writes the IT por­tal De­pend­ing on the provider, you may only be able to read or re­ply to mes­sages.

Sites of­fer­ing this ser­vice in­clude 10min­, for in­stance. In some cases, the dis­pos­able mail providers will be recog­nised when reg­is­ter­ing with a ser­vice – in this case, you can look for an al­ter­na­tive with a quick search.


De­spite the num­ber of e-mail ad­dresses in­creas­ing ev­ery year, many users are still fail­ing to get to grips with e-mail mes­sages.

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