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Ten Tips for Fall

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Show Transcript

The Tips

  1. Don’t hit “Reply All” (unless you mean it)
  2. Be sure you mean it when you hit “Send” (There’s no “un-send”.)
  3. DON’T TYPE IN ALL CAPS (all caps means shouting – it just does)
  4. Don’t buy from a stranger that contacts you (phone or email)
  5. Assume EVERYTHING is being recorded (and act accordingly)
  6. BACK UP!1
  7. When in doubt: reboot
  8. Do the research! (It’s more than the first link in a search result)
  9. Give more than you take
  10. Don’t believe everything you read online

and a bonus:

  • Be kind. – “Everyone is fighting a battle you know nothing about.”

Do this

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Podcast audio


Footnotes & references

1: Yes, I’m shouting. :-)

30 comments on “Ten Tips for Fall”

  1. Having had a computer in my home since 1984 (and I still know how to issue DOS commands!), I have been well aware of all of the things you mentioned. I do have a comment on the one about not using all caps. I have an old friend who suffered a major stroke a half dozen years ago. It affected her sight in a strange way; she can see, but only to the right and left of center, and then it’s blurry (there’s a complicated name for it it that I don’t remember). The end result relative to emails is that she requests that all emails sent to her use a black 18pt ALL CAPS font on a yellow background. To a normal-sighted person, this is shouting on steroids, but for her, it’s the only way she can read the emails. I’m certain there are many others around the globe with the same issue, and all caps is the remedy for their problem.

    • As I said, I totally understand that this is a necessity for some (though, again, I’d look for other options as well). What’s most important is that your friend realize that people will react a certain way to reading her mails and there’s nothing that she can do (other than apologize every time, and even that doesn’t stop the visceral reaction). There’s no way to change the reception of those messages.

  2. On #1 (Don’t hit Reply All):

    If you got that email thru, say, Google Groups, and you belong to that group, a simply ‘Reply’ will also go to all members of the group. You have to take the time to replace the Group address with the specific person for this email, or it goes to the entire group. To leave the group, you’ll either have to log in to group registration and cancel, or contact whoever set up the group.

  3. Hello Leo and everyone,

    Another suggestion I would add to the list is, Don’t be afraid to ASK! Ask a question, ask for help, ask for advice. There are people out there that know more than each of us, and if we don’t inquire them, we may never find out those things that may be essential to our “computer-well-being”. I for one loved to be asked (have been in the computing and software business for 40+ years), just so I can strain my brain, help others, and even learn something myself – which I probably do every day. The only “bad” question is the one that does not get asked.

    Keep up the great endeavors! Vicki

    • And Ask Leo! :-) or ask Google.

      As they used to say at work. “There are no stupid questions, only stupid mistakes.”

      • Or, as the old adage goes, “The only stupid question is the one that isn’t asked, but there’s no limit on the number of stupid answers, so be really darn careful.” I think that’s how it went. :D (See Leo’s Tips 8 & 10.)

        • Actually, it’s not true that there are no stupid questions. I see them daily. For example, “Where did my emails go?” with no reference to which email program or webmail website, which OS or what they were doing when the emails were lost.

          • Mark, you are sooo right – there are stupid questions, mostly from folks who are too lazy to read or search for answers themselves. These folks want others to do the work and find answers for them. But Leo’s “be kind” tip applies to them as well. We can all benefit from kindness.

  4. Thank you so much Leo for yet another big help from you to all of us newbies (and as you say, reminders to the savvy)! The only thing I’d add to this list is to use BCC when sending to multiple people. It’s irritating to receive so many addresses, (many with 6 or 7 additional lines of phrases) so that one has to scroll down, many times interminably, to get to the message…..and it wasn’t even important enough to warrant all of this trouble! Another bad thing of using the TO instead of the BCC is that it endangers all those addresses being free to hackers and other just mean jerks for the asking. It’s incredible how those people persist in doing it despite that from time to time someone says “Please remove all addresses before forwarding!”

    THANK YOU again for all your help!!! :o)

  5. I’d add to your promotion of healthy skepticism that “do not buy anything from a stranger unless you initiated the contact” and “don’t believe everything you read/hear/see/whatever” apply far beyond our online dealings. Don’t buy from that vacuum-cleaner salesman who comes to the door (yes, an actual vacuum-cleaner salesman has appeared at my door in the last year or so). Don’t assume that any salesperson has your best interests at heart when they tell you which model to buy (this is very true for purveyors of investment instruments!). Don’t automatically believe your newspaper. Don’t automatically believe TV newscasters. Don’t automatically believe what your neighbor tells you over the back fence. Really, really, really NEVER automatically accept the premise that there is any truth in advertising!

    Looking for multiple sources of information, and opening transactions ourselves when we want to buy something (rather than allowing others to open those transactions) will stand us in good stead in every arena.

  6. Okay, so on the all caps issue, surely there is some (simple?) solution that exists or that could be programmed that would make the font, color, size, background color, etc., the way the person writing/reading it requires for their particular circumstance or preference? Seems like there could be something like that built into browsers and/or email readers that could do that. Then everyone would be happy, at least about this. Seems like there should be no reason for anyone to have to suffer on either end of this.

    What I’m about to say next, for the record, is just a bit of silly teasing. I realize that it’s fairly common for the font of a web site’s title on the page to be in all caps. I notice that this is the case with “Ask Leo!” I mean, there it is, right there at the top of the page, not only in all caps, but with an exclamation point to boot. Why, it’s almost like you’re instructing us to shout our questions to you, Leo! *DaRfC*

    • On a web page a designer can create fonts in many ways. Headlines are often done this way, and yes, it’s done with programming in a stylesheet. It’s very easy to turn text into all-caps. It’s not easy to turn all-caps into regular typing – because that takes much more complex programming.

      It can be done in email as well, but it’s not as easy. Some email clients also allow a person to style the html they send – though there can never be any guarantee what the recipient will see on the other end. The bottom line is that it can become so complex that it can easily end up in a giant mess. In the end experienced web designers learn that keeping things as simple as possible is the best strategy. So bottom line is to keep that all-caps typing to a minimum.

  7. Hotmail and Outlook Express, and presumably others, allow settings to defer delivery by a user-specified number of minutes. This can be for one email or all. It can be bypassed with a “send immediately” button.

    • I have that feature on my phone, and it might be good to stop that occasional impulsive email from being sent, but nothing beats a little self control. Type your email, stop think it over, then send.

  8. A potential slight spelling error:
    “And a bonus number eleven, be kind. Everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know noting about.” Noting?

    Maybe you should add: Proofread what you write before transmitting. (;

  9. I would add that Snopes can be a good resource, but they also have a bias and aren’t always completely forthcoming in their assessments.

    • They’ve been accused of bias over and over and over again – usually by people with agendas that are, to put it politely, not in alignment with facts. This so-called bias has, itself, been debunked time and time again by other third parties. Bottom line: no one is perfect, but Snopes is pretty darned good.

  10. Good list Leo. When it comes to emails and new people entering the business world, it’s good to learn some “good practices”. These may seem silly when you’re a newbie, but they’ll pay off as you move up in the world. Here is my list of good email practices:

    (a) Always write a subject line for the email.

    (b) Do read the entire text of a received email before replying or acting. The subject line wasn’t meant to be the entire email. It’s embarrassing when the sender points out that he or she already addressed your issue in the original email – which you never read.

    (c) NEVER send an email with just the subject line and no text in the email body. You do that a few times and your emails won’t be opened.

    (d) When you’re feeling pressured or perturbed, write your email (or reply), but don’t sent it. Save it and read the next day before sending. Chances are that you’ll decide to tone it down.

    (e) Sometimes in the chain of replied and forwarded emails the subject matter morphs and changes. Take the time to change the subject line or add to it. Also, take the time to pare down the list of recipients who will no longer be interested in the new topic.

    (f) Use proper English and complete sentences. If you write like you speak, don’t expect people to understand you (they don’t see your expressions, hand gestures or hear your voice intonation). If you’re not understood, you won’t be heard – and eventually you’ll be ignored. To err may be human, but too many of such “errs” and you’re unprofessional. To say another way: Forget your smart phone texting habits for (business) emails.

    (g) When sending an email to a large number of people, introduce the topic and say why you are including all of them in the email. Not everyone has been following your hallway conversations.

    (h) If you want something from someone, state that explicitly. Ask a question or tell them to do something. If you’re sending an email for information, then say this is FYI only – no action is required. As a corollary, if you’re describing something and expect the recipients to reach a conclusion, then explicitly state the conclusion that you want ALL the recipients to reach.

    (i) If your topic is complex and has a lot of data associated with it, don’t just cut and paste a large volume of gibberish into your email and expect the receiver to decipher and understand it. Summarize the topic at the top of the email (like an executive summary) and say the details are attached.

    (j) Never respond to an email with a one-word or brief reply, such as “Yes”, or “I understand”. This type of response gets lost in translation and the other guy is never sure what you understand or you’re saying a “yes” to which part of the original email.

    Finally, even if you think you’re the big boss, do practice proper email communications, otherwise there is a good chance that you’ll look silly.

      • That may help with a few, but there will still be those who respond without bothering to read the basic email, let alone the follow-on comments. I find this to be especially true of support people. I contact them about one thing, and they send a pre-written response about something else.
        We see this even on Ask Leo. People ask questions that were covered in the article or comments.

        • Come on Old Man, that’s exactly why I wrote that, because of all the ridiculous questions we get, often people apparently simply copying and pasting in the title of the article.


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