Email: A Few Definitions

by Deborah Healey

Mailer/email software/mail client
These three terms refer to the same thing-- the email program you are using. There is a distinction between these, however, and the "mail server" (q.v.).

Mail server
This is the computer that runs the mail program and actually sends and receives your mail, then puts it into your mailbox.

Also known as the "To:" person.

Like in a letter, the carbon copy-- a copy of your message will go to this person, as well. All mail programs have a cc option somewhere.

This is a "blind cc," which means that the original addressee will not know that a copy of your message is going to this person. Think carefully when you use this option. In some cases, it is like talking behind someone's back. It is also often used to send a message to a group of people where you do not want them to know each other's email address. Spam (see below) uses this option frequently.

The topic of your message -- always try to remember to include a subject. Some mailing lists won't let you post a message without a subject, and some mail programs are intelligent enough to remind you if you try to send a message with no subject.

What you're trying to say. Depending on the mail program you use, the message may include unnecessary information at the top about all the computers your message went through to get to you. Be sure you delete the extraneous garbage before you reply or forward a message.

These are shortcuts that most programs will let you create so that you don't have to type in the whole address of people you write to frequently. Nicknames can also be used for a group of people you write to frequently.

Address book
A set of nicknames makes up an address book. This can also be called "Contacts."

To mail a message to someone.

In Eudora, to gather all the message you're going to send in order to mail them all at once. This is useful if you pay for your mail time -- you create all your messages when you're not connected (online), queue the messages, then go online and send them all at once.

To answer a message. You can reply with or without the original message and reply to all recipients of the original message (including cc'd people) or just the original sender. In general, it's a good idea to include at least some of the original message in a reply so that the sender knows what you are replying to. The worst kind of message is a reply that just says, "Yes, I agree" -- by the time the original sender gets your message, he or she may not remember what you are agreeing to or about! The original message in most mailers is indicated by > signs at the beginning of each line.

To send a message you have received on to someone else. It's generally polite to tell the original sender that you are forwarding his or her message. Before you forward someone else's message to a mailing list, it's necessary to get the original sender's permission or you risk getting a very angry message! The From: line in a message that you forward will have your name; inside the message will be the name of the original sender, subject, and date sent. It's a good idea to cc: the original sender.

This is an option in Eudora that does not exist is all mailers. When you redirect a message, the original sender's name appears in the From: line, not your name (see Forward for the difference), and the original message does not appear with > marks.

To get rid of a message. Many mailers, including Eudora and Pine, make this a two-step process where you mark a message for deletion (Pine) or put it into the Trash folder (Eudora), but it's not actually gone until you quit the program. If you change your mind, you can Undelete (Pine) or Transfer it from the Trash to another mailbox (Eudora).

This is the path a message takes to get to its recipient. Some mailers will show this; others politely remove it. In Eudora, you can see it by clicking on the "Blah, Blah" icon in the top line. The only time you care about the routing is if you're having trouble sending or receiving a message. Your technical advisor (I hope you have one!) will be able to look at the routing and figure out where the message may be going wrong.

This is when a message comes back to the sender without being delivered. You usually get a message from the Postmaster entitled "Undeliverable mail" that tells you about the bounce. If you have a poor Internet connection and your mail server is often out of order ("down"), your mail may bounce. Listservs such as TESL-L are very intolerant of bouncing messages, and will usually cancel your subscription if they happen too often.

SLIP, PPP, direct connection
These are ways you can be connected to the Internet. If you are dialing into a mail server (in other words, you have a 'dialup connection'), you are probably using PPP (Point to Point Protocol) or SLIP (Serial Line Internet Protocol). If you don't need to use a modem, you have a direct connection. Even a direct connection may not mean that the mail server sends your mail immediately, however. It may send and receive mail in a batch at specific times during the day, and your mail will wait with everyone else's at your institution to be sent and received.

Junk mail. It's almost unavoidable. Some programs, such as SpamAssassin, try to help control spam. As long as people can buy 5 million email addresses for $10, though, spam will continue to be a burden on all email users.

These are little symbols used to express emotion online. The most common ones are smileys (happy faces) that look like this :) or this :-) See the Netiquette message for more.

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Last updated 14 May 2005 by D.Healey,