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5. Web Basics: Communication

The Internet is widely used for one-on-one or group communications. 

Electronic mail (e-mail or email for short) is a way to communicate electronically with a single person or  a group of people.  While many emails are focused on text, you may see other items, like images and media, as components.  Here are some major concepts associated with email:

Email address

Parts of an Email Address
Parts of email address

Mail of any kind requires an address to reach its intended destination. Email addresses identify:

  • an email account (also called a username)
  • at (@)
  • a particular set of computers connected to the Internet (also called a domain).

At Ohio State, email addresses consist of:

  • username: your last name, a period, and a number assigned by the University
  • @
  • domain: osu.edu (staff/faculty) OR buckeyemail.osu.edu (students)


Ohio State's Faculty, Staff and Student Directory is available when you select Find People on OSU's home page. To search, type a name and retrieve all possible matches.

All OSU faculty, staff and students have a published email address, but not everyone actually uses email. Don't rely on email for urgent messages unless you are sure that the recipient reads email frequently.

  • Schools, businesses and government agencies: If you know where someone works or attends school, check that Web site first for an online staff directory like Ohio State's.
  • Others:


An email message has three main parts, as shown in the illustration below:

  • Header: includes message recipients, subject line, attachments
  • Body or Text: is the actual content of the message
  • Footer: includes contact information or signature of sender

email message

Email Program

To use email, you need a computer program or application to do so. This could be a program on your computer or available via the Web. OSU users may access their email via Buckeye Mail (students) or University E-mail Service (staff).  You could also choose a free email program such as Yahoo! Mail or Gmail.

Some email tools have a program (sometimes called a client) to install on your computer in order to store and organize email. Outlook is such a service that has a client in addition to a web-based interface.

For specifics on how to use a particular email service, see its help section.

Sending Mail

When sending mail, you need to enter an address or multiple addresses(often separated by a semicolon (; ). You should have 3 options:

  • TO: Enter addresses for the main person, or group of people, to whom you want the email sent.
  • CC: Enter addresses here to receive a courtesy(also called carbon) copy of your message (but for whom you don't necessarily expect a response)
  • BCC: Enter addresses here when you want someone to receive a blind courtesy copy. This is often useful for emailing a large list of individuals and don't want everyone receiving responses. Course instructors often use this.
  • Subject: Give your email a subject - and make it so the recipient(s) know easily what your email will be about. 


You may reply to an email.  This will usually be a button you click when viewing a specific email.  Your subject will often automatically have a RE: in front of the subject the sender used.  You can also use Reply All in many email programs to respond to all people in the To: and CC: fields.


You may forward an email to another person or group of people.  This will usually be a button you click when viewing a specific email.  This behaves just like sending a regular email.  A FW: will usually automatically appear in front of the subject.


You may find the need to include an attachment (for example, a document or image) with your email.  To add an attachment, look for a logo or section with that label (sometimes designated with a paper clip).  You will then be asked to choose a file (or drag and drop one) from your computer.  Depending on the program, you may be able to pick multiple items at once or have to do one at a time.  You will also need to know where you have the item you wish to attach saved.

Some email programs limit the total number and/or size of attachments.  Forwarding emails usually includes any associated attachments.  Deleting the email will delete the attachment.

Mailing List

A mailing list, commonly referred to as a listserv, is used to communicate with a select group of people (sometimes numbering in the hundreds or even thousands – do you want to enter all of those email addresses?).  Mailing lists are often topical (example: a listserv about events on campus) or based upon a position (example: all faculty in the history department).

Some mailing lists allow for all people to communicate, while others only allow for a select group to send messages to everyone.  You may be subscribed to a mailing list by someone else (more common for ones based upon position) or you can request to be signed up (more common for topical ones). 

The mailing list has an address.  As long as you can send messages to the list, the address behaves like any other email address.



If you are affiliated with Ohio State, search for your own name in the OSU Faculty, Staff and Student Directory.

Or try a search for your own name or a friend's name in Yellow Pages People Search. How useful are the results? Can you view an email address without paying a fee?

Below are examples of more advanced communication methods via the web.  More details about these and others may be found in the Social Media tutorial.

Instant Messaging

A way to communicate with people via text, but in a more conversation like mode.  Instant Messaging is usually done while someone is online (some programs will allow you to send if someone isn’t online).  Some programs also allow sending files and sharing audio/video.  Downloading a special program, especially for certain features, may be required.

Example: Yahoo! Messenger

Video conferencing

You may be able to communicate via audio and video via the web as well – but you’ll want to have a microphone and camera (web cam).  This allows for groups or individuals to communicate in a real time manner with voice and image.  Some advanced programs allow for sharing content, such as presentations.

Examples: Skype, WebEx, and Google Hangout


Social Media

People use a number of resources to share what’s going on in their lives, news items of interest to them, or even more scholarly information. 

Examples: ScienceBlogs, Twitter, and Facebook.

More details about these and others may be found in the Social Media for Work and Play tutorial.



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