For activists outside of the U.S., e-mail alerts are often the only way to build international solidarity from a sometimes heavily censored home base. Within the U.S., however, cyberalerts urging the recipient to sign on and save the world are assumed to have no impact, instead generating sighs or rolled eyes. One exception is an e-mail petition that directs readers to a Web site where they can add their names to a list of other hell-raisers. E-mails announcing details about a rally, voting deadlines, or ways to effect change are also worth sending. Here’s how to do it:
>> Make your subject line clear, concise, and accurate. “Alarming News” may get your post opened, but if it isn’t appropriate, you’ll seem nave or untrustworthy.
>> State the purpose of your e-mail right away: should people visit a Web site, call a government official, or donate money?
>> Avoid attachments—they’re virus magnets.
>> Include contact info for yourself and targeted decision makers.
>> To avoid awkward line breaks and odd characters, use plain ASCIi text-especially when cutting and pasting. And use ASCii-friendly symbols to break up text (e.g., * or # or ^ or =).
>> Keep your paragraphs short and your lines down to 75 characters max.
>> Protect people’s privacy by sending the message “bcc” (blind carbon copy).
>> If you want people to forward your mail, say so (and vice-versa).
>> Verify your facts and number them (as well as your suggested actions).
>> If your post is long, put “END” at the conclusion of your message.