Agricultural Communications, Purdue University
An electronic newsletter with communication tips and information

November 1999

A Note from the "On Target" Team

This is your last issue of "On Target" for 1999. You'll hear from us again in 2000.

Best wishes for the holidays.

Ag Comm "On Target" Team

What Are Plug-Ins?

A plug-in is a small software module that adds a specific feature to a larger software program. Adobe PhotoShop users, for instance, are accustomed to acquiring plug-in filters that allow for creating extra-fancy effects.

In the context of the Web, a plug-in is a downloadable (and usually free) software module specifically designed to enhance the capabilities of a Web browser. Plug-ins enable browsers to automatically play music or animation, act as file viewers, or display three-dimensional games. Plugs-ins can also enable user interaction, allowing you to move objects around on Web pages or even speak with other Web surfers.

There are hundreds of plug-ins available, developed for all kinds of uses. Examples of plug-ins include the QuickTime plug-in, which enables a browser to display Web audio and video files, and the Shockwave plug-in, which also allows a browser to play multimedia presentations.

Many of the most commonly used plug-ins conform to the "Netscape Navigator standard." And luckily, because Microsoft's Internet Explorer (IE) browser supports the Netscape standard, most common plug-ins work with both browsers. (Nevertheless, you usually have to install Netscape plug-ins separately for each browser.) A minor complication is that Microsoft also has its own plug-in standard for IE called "ActiveX controls."

You don't need to know much about ActiveX controls except that they sometimes serve as plug-ins for Microsoft's Internet Explorer browser--primarily on the PC.

One more twist. Plug-ins are not full-fledged software applications; that is, they require a browser to run. There are, however, software applications called "players" or "viewers" that perform functions similar to plug-ins--but that are in fact stand-alone applications. For example, there is the RealMedia RealPlayer, which can play audio and video files, and the Apple QuickTime Player, which also runs multimedia files.

Although these players perform tasks similar to their plug-in siblings, they can also be run on their own--with no browser involved. Other players do double-duty, serving both as players and as browser plug-ins. One example is the Adobe Acrobat Reader, a document presentation and navigation program that lets you view documents in the portable document format (PDF).

Remember, you don't have to download EVERY plug-in you see hyped. Be selective, and you'll be pleased with what your browser helps you do.

Find a link to more information on plug-ins at the Distance Education and Information Technology Web site Just scroll down to the bottom of the page, and look for "Web Plug-In Primer" under "The Latest DE Links."

E-Mail Identity

According to, an estimated 30 million e-mail messages are sent each day, and a recent survey commissioned by Pitney Bowes found that the typical worker in the United States receives up to 200 e-mails per day.

My point? Don't get lost in the shuffle.

Just the other day, I received an e-mail--and the identifier the sender left at the bottom of the e-mail was the sender's initials. This left me wondering just who the heck the sender was. Like most people, I get a great deal e-mail, and taking the time to go through all the gobbledy-gook at the very bottom of a message to try and decipher who sent it can be a bit too much.

And some e-mail inventories only list part of the sender's name. For instance, <> could be Jack, John, Jerry, or Jane. See what I mean?

Leaving your e-mail identity to someone's best guess just isn't the best communication strategy. Leave enough contact information so that the person knows who you are and how to get back to you.

Here's a good format to use at the bottom of your e-mail:

Jane Smith
Extension Educator, Smith County
1313 Mockingbird Lane
Smithville, IN 13131
PH: (515)131-1313

Don't leave your e-mail identity to chance.

3 Ways to Grab Your Audience's Attention

Each time you develop or deliver a program, write a newsletter article, or talk on radio or television, you are appealing to people's attention.

When you do any of these things, you have only seconds to attract the reader's or listener's interest. According to "The Guerrilla Marketing Handbook," by Jay Conrad Levinson and Seth Godin, there are three main ways to get people to stop and read or listen. In order, they are:

  1. Appeal to self interest.
  2. Appeal to news value.
  3. Create curiosity.

In Extension programs, it shouldn't be too difficult to categorize educational programs under one of these three. The trick is to make sure that your audience knows it. That's where a good headline for an article or title for a meeting is key to success.

Titles for meetings and/or headlines on news articles or displays should immediately give the audience a sense of what he or she will get by reading or listening. And they should be inviting to your target audience.

For example:

  1. Appeal to self interest. The headline or meeting title could be: "Save Money in These 5 Easy Steps."
  2. Appeal to news value. An example might be: "Biotechnology Creates New Ag Opportunities."
  3. Create Curiosity. "How Biotech Can Save Your Farm."

Whichever category, the headline or title should give the reader or listener the idea that the information that follows will address the need.

A little more about example three. You might think you could create curiosity by posing it as a question: "Will Biotech Save Your Farm?" But with the question head, the reader can answer "yes" or "no" without reading on. You run the risk of losing your audience.

Then there's the statement: "Biotech Can Save Your Farm." That's not bad, but adding the word "How" promises your listener or reader that the information you have to offer will deliver the answer.

Grammar Trap: South vs. south

The answer to the "to cap or not to cap" question for "south" or "west" or "northeast" or whatever is pretty simple.

If you're talking about a location or place, capitalize. If you're talking about a direction, don't.

Example: Birds fly south for the winter because it's warmer in the South.

Tip: "The" is a pretty good clue. If it's there or you want to put it there, odds are you should capitalize

If there's a grammar (or usage) trap you'd like me to discuss or if you have a tip that will help the rest of us avoid one, please let me know.

Please, folks. After writing monthly "Grammar Traps" for three years, my well is running dry. If you have a grammar or usage question--especially one that lends itself to the "vs." treatment--I'd love to hear from you.

We want to hear from you.
Do you have a communication question?
Do you have a comment on this issue of "On Target"?
If so, please e-mail any of our writers or On Target's managing editor, Kevin Smith.

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