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So you think you know how to forward an email? Here are my self-imposed rules, learned over twenty years of emailing humor around the Internet:

After you click Forward, edit the message to remove the name and email address of everyone on it. As messages are forwarded, the addresses build. If that email hits any computer with a zombie virus, all those addresses will be extricated and everyone mentioned will receive even more spam.

If you forward to more than one person, put all the email addresses in the BCC: field so recipients see no other addresses. (If your email program doesn't show a BCC: field, google for "[your program's name] BCC field" and learn how.) You can tell who does this because their "TO:" field says "Undisclosed Recipients." (Old Fogie Note: BCC once stood for blind carbon copy; ask your parents what "carbon" has to do with email!)

Remove all those >>>'s and ]]]'s from the left margin. No, not by hand! Use StripMail, a tiny free program that also cleans up broken paragraphs, bad indenting, and other email problems, too. Free at stripmail.net. (I feel this is one problem that’s on the decline.)

Resize those giant 36-point fonts down to 12-point. Who reads five words at a time?!

Fix broken lines. Who reads three words per line? Again, not by hand; use StripMail (see above).

Click Forward: from within the email you're reading, not from the one you started opening. This way your readers don't have to open ten other emails just to see what you sent. (This rule seems to be most often violated by AOL users.)

Don't send megabytes of photos; instead send a link to a photo-sharing site where people can download and view them when and as they wish. There are many free sites on the web. Make use of them.

Avoid sending unnecessary attachments. Some email programs block attachments because they serve as a hiding place for viruses.

If possible, send plain text so viruses cannot attach themselves (and your recipients can download it faster). This doesn't work with photos or links; these must be sent "formatted" or as HTML.

Remove the "FW :" from the Subject line. Rename the subject, if you wish. Fix misspellings.

Never forward anything saying "Send this to 10 people and…" something will happen. Nothing will happen! If you must forward the message, delete those segments; someone else usually added them anyway! No bad luck will happen if you don't forward. Anything that says that, trash them first!

Never forward petitions; they are valuable only to spammers. Never add your name or email address to a petition. If you want to support the position, fine, but a personal email to the intended recipient will carry more weight anyway. In addition, never believe an email can be traced. It can't!

Never forward anything that sounds too good to be true, or claims to be fact, or almost anything but a joke without checking with http://www.Snopes.com first.

Never forward a Word document as an attachment. Smart people won’t open it as that’s a common way of spreading viruses. Instead, copy the entire document (in Word, press Ctrl-A, then Ctrl-C) and then paste it into an HTML email. Ditto PowerPoint slide shows that contain mostly text, Excel spreadsheets, etc.

Never forward "Amber Alerts," "Virus Alerts," or children wanting get well cards. Again, check with http://www.Snopes.com first. Usually that "new virus" was found and eliminated by your AV software months ago.

Never forward anything that promises you'll get something for doing so, including good luck or bad luck. There is no magic, not even in computers.

Never forward advertisements. Delete them instead. You pay for your Internet access; why advertise for someone else for free?

Never forward superfluous graphics, emoticons, and embellishments. I've received 1MB jokes that contain 1KB of joke and 999KB of unnecessary photos. Your recipients know what a dog looks like. They don't need a photo or clip art inserted after the word "dog."

Now email this link to all your friends and ask them to join you and me and follow these commonsense rules. And while you're at it, ask them to subscribe to CyberJoke 3000™, too!

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