The software program you use to send, receive, and manage electronic messages is called an e-mail client. Regardless of what e-mail client you use, the fields you fill out will always be the same.
- To: contains the e-mail address of the recipient, and tells your mail server where to send the message. This is a required field.
- Subject: contains the main topic of the message. Keep this brief. Recipients see this in their summary of incoming messages.
- Body contains the message itself, which can be of any length. While you can send an e-mail without anything in this section, that would be like mailing an empty envelope to someone.
- CC:, short for Carbon Copy, contains the e-mail addresses for people other than the primary recipients.
- BCC:, short for Blind Carbon Copy, contains the e-mail addresses of other recipients who receive copies, but their names and addresses are hidden from all other recipients.
- Attachment contains the names of files that you may be sending, for example, a Word document or a photo.
- From: This field will contain your own e-mail address. You should not have to touch it, unless you have more than one e-mail account set up and need to switch between them.
Technically speaking, the only field you absolutely have to fill out in order to send an e-mail is the “To” field, but the subject and body of a message are what makes it worth opening, so don’t leave them out! It’s possible you will never need to use the optional fields above, and that’s okay. But if you do need them, it’s good to know they’re there.
Frequently Asked Questions
I don’t see a BCC field. Where do I find it?
Sometimes e-mail clients will hide the BCC field from the standard message window. This is because it is used less often than the other fields. To add a BCC field, you may need to search your e-mail client’s options menu system for a “show fields” option. If you have trouble finding it, consult your e-mail client’s help system.
Do I have to include a subject?
Not technically, but you should. Most e-mail programs will warn you if you try sending a message without a subject. This is because messages without subjects are often marked as spam, either by the recipient’s spam filter or the recipient themselves. Adding an appropriate subject is a good way to let the recipient know they can trust this message.
What type of files can I attach to an e-mail?
You can attach any type of file to an e-mail; however, most e-mail servers have size restrictions for attachments, so very large files may be refused either by your mail server or the recipient’s. If you need to send large files, or a large number of files, it is better to share them using an online storage system, such as Dropbox or Google Docs.
How do I know what to write in the subject line?
Your subject should be a brief, clear summary of the body of your e-mail. The subject is the first thing the recipient will read when they receive your e-mail, so use it to set expectations for what they will find inside. For more information, see E-mail Etiquette.