Email, short for electronic mail, is a method of exchanging messages ("mail") between people using computers, tablets or phones. It's an important form of communication used for both professional and personal purposes. Email has some advantages over ordinary mail:
- It's very quick - messages are delivered instantly or very rapidly
- It's private - mail is delivered to your own personal and private account that requires a password to access and read
- It's accessible - You can access your mail from any computer or mobile device that has an Internet connection; you don't have to be at home to access it
- It's easy to manage - email apps come with lots of tools to help you file, sort, find and organise your email
- It helps you sign up for web services - if you want to e.g. sign up to Facebook or shop online, then you will need an email address
- It lets you communicate with many people at the same time - each letter you send can only addressed to one person. You can send an email to multiple people at once.
Before you can use email, you need to create an email address for yourself. Just as you can only receive telephone calls if you have a telephone number, you can only send and receive emails if you have an email address. All email addresses have the same format
The name is a unique combination of letters and numbers that identifies that this email address belongs to you.
@ (pronounced "at") is a separator between the name and the domain
The domain is the organisation supplying the email address.
For example, John Smith working at ETBI might have the email address firstname.lastname@example.org
jsmith is the name, identifying that this is John Smith's email
etbi.ie is the domain.
There are a few common ways of getting an email address:
- Your work: depending upon where you work and what you work as, you'll be given an email address when you start a new job
- Your study: your college may also provide an email address for you to use for college - and other - purposes
- Your internet supplier (called an ISP - Internet service provider): some ISPs provide email addresses
- A free provider, such as Google (Gmail), Yahoo or Microsoft (Outlook)
Your work, college and your ISP email address will work for you as long as you stay in that job, study at that college or stay with that ISP - if you change your job, graduate college or change your ISP, your email address will be deleted.
Many people use a free email service such as Gmail or Outlook because it's a permanent email address. There is one disadvantage though - if you have a common name (e.g. John Smith) then that name will be already be in use. If your name is already in use, then you'll have to think of some way of creating a unique name. You could use your middle name or initials perhaps or put some numbers after your name, or even use your nickname. So instead of email@example.com, you could be
Just be aware however that if you have a common name, these ideas might not work, and you might have to think a little about your email name. Also, if you'll be using your email for professional purposes (such as job applications), it's advisable to have a professional-looking email address e.g. firstname.lastname@example.org, not email@example.com.
When you create an email account, you will be asked to provide a password to access the account and keep it secure. You will need to use a password that is both easy for you to remember and secure enough so that no-one will be able to guess it. When you create a password:
- Don't use anything obvious like your name (here's a list of bad passwords)
- Including capital and small letters, numbers and special characters will make your password more secure: football is a bad password fooTball78! is a better password (if you can remember it)
- The longer the password, the more difficult it is to guess
- Use a password that you will find easy to remember.
- Don't write down your password!
Creating an email account
Each free email provider will do things slightly differently, but the basic principles are the same:
- Create the account
- enter your first and last name
- create the email name that you want
- enter a password
- Enter additional details as required - the provider might ask for:
- a mobile phone number (to help you recover lost account details)
- your birth date and gender (for advertising)
- another email address (to help you recover lost account details)
- Read and accept the terms and conditions (if you do not agree, you won't be able to create an account)
Writing an email
Again, all email providers do things slightly differently, but the same principles apply
Some concepts to describe:
- From - Who is the email from? As you're composing the mail your name and email address will be here
- To - enter an email address to which you want to send the message
- Subject - enter a subject, so the person receiving the mail has an idea of what it is about
- Formatting toolbar (bottom)- for changing the display (text size, font etc)
- Send - to send your email to the recipient
- Additional options (next to Send button) - such as attach a file or insert a link to a web page
You can write your email any way that you like, but do remember who you're writing to; use language and style appropriate for the purpose; if you're writing to friends or family you can be informal and take lots of shortcuts. If it's a business matter, you should be formal and professional.
To, CC and BCC
Most email platforms have three options for sending to recipients. The To and CC ("Carbon Copy") options work in the same way. Recipients will receive the same email and see the email address of all other recipients. When it comes to email etiquette, the To field is generally used for the main recipients of your email; the people for whom the email is directly intended. The CC field is for sending a copy to other interested parties for their information. As an example, suppose you as a student missed an assignment deadline because you were sick. You would email your tutor directly (using the 'To' field) but you might also send the email to the course supervisor using the 'CC' field.
'BCC' works differently. The B in BCC stands for 'Blind'. Anyone sent a mail by BCC will see the same message as recipients in the 'To' and 'CC' fields and will see the email addresses of those recipients but will not see the email address of anyone sent the message by 'BCC'. In fact, no recipients of the message will see the email addresses of those recipients who have been BCC'd. BCC is used when you want to send a copy of an email to a large number of people. When you place those email addresses in the BCC field, they are invisible to all the recipients of the email, so BCC is useful for protecting the privacy of recipients, who cannot see who else has received the mail by BCC. BCC also protects against unnecessary 'Reply to All' messages.