lukasczyk.me

Jul 15, 2019

A Note on Email

Email is there since a long time ago; it dates back to the early 1970s, thus it is much older than most of its users. With this page I want to present some things that are important to me in my daily email workflow. I want to ask you to respect this, especially if you are a student asking for advice or similar.

Email Client and Format

I know that there is a large number of email clients out there. Many users even prefer the web interfaces provided by their email providers—a habit I cannot understand at all, since they feel so bloated and shiny to me, which distracts me from actually getting information transferred. I am almost exclusively using neomutt, a console-based email client running in a terminal. neomutt is a fork of the well-known mutt mail reader, with added features bundled instead of adding them via patch application.

Due to this client choice my mail is shown on a terminal, which avoids me from seeing all your shiny colourful nicely designed stuff you send with your emails. Thus, it is completely useless to send me HTML email. Actually, you should avoid HTML email at all and for all times! It only increases size of the mail (not the best argument in 2019); furthermore, there are privacy concerns, because they can include whatever external content is referenced there, can be abused easily for phishing attacks or to spread malicious software.

Worst is, if your email client sends HTML only, ignoring that there should be a text-only version of the text as well. This results in me either saving the HTML to a file and open it in a browser—because technically, you are sending a web page to me—or deleting the mail without reading it.

Thus, configure your email client properly, such that it sends plain-text only. For your own good, I’d recommend to also deactivate the rendering of HTML for all mails you receive. Consider to also have a look at the useplaintext web page.

Attachments

Do not send me large binary attachments without notifying me beforehand. Furthermore, please use open formats, such as plain text, TeX, or the open-document format from Open-/LibreOffice. Do not send me Word, Excel, or PowerPoint files, I won’t open them!

Encryption

I prefer email encryption using GnuPG. See the about page for my key. Please send encrypted email whenever you can. We can also meet in person to cross-sign our GnuPG keys.

Just do me one favour: configure your email client to not encrypt the subject. This is a new bad habit by Thunderbird plugins, which make searching for emails even more painful.

Posting Style

Please never use top posting! Consider the following example, why it is such a bad idea to top post (example taken from Wikipedia):

1 A: Because it messes up the order in which people normally read text.
2 Q: Why is top-posting such a bad thing?
3 A: Top-posting.
4 Q: What is the most annoying thing in e-mail?

The article provides a large explanation, which styles are common and which shall be used. I use a combination of interleaved and bottom posting, depending on the context. If your email client does not support this style and you cannot configure it it is maybe time to switch to a proper mail client :-) But beware: “every mail client sucks” (from the mutt motto).