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Guide to Email Etiquette
What is the Need for Email Etiquette?

E-mail is a lot like talking. It is used so much that no one really thinks about it. But there are rules and courtesies, just as there are with talking. And there are other considerations involved in communicating by written word only.

Professionalism: using proper email language will convey a professional image.

Efficiency: emails that get to the point are much more effective than poorly worded emails.

Protection from liability: awareness of email etiquette helps protect users from sending emails that could lead to costly civil liability.

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Email Courtesy

Pay careful attention to where emails will end up.
It can be embarrassing if a personal message ends up on a mailing list goes to the wrong people.

When asking for something, don't forget to say "please".
Similarly, it never hurts to say "thank you".

Don't expect an immediate answer.
Most people will not check their email more than a few times a day, so a delay should be expected.

Never send personal or sensitive information by e-mail.
Email systems are not always designed to be secure so it is best to err on the side of caution.

Don't use sarcasm or write emails when angry.
Witty sarcasm is hard to detect in email and may accidentally offend the recipient. Anger can also be offensive and lead to more anger; so its best to be calm and reasonable.

Don't send or forward emails containing libelous, defamatory, offensive, racist or obscene remarks.
Also avoid sending virus hoaxes and chain letters.
Sometimes emails containing this type of content can seriously offend or inadvertently harm the recipient. So its best to avoid sending such emails.

Unless the recipient has previously agreed, don't forward poems, jokes, or attachments.
These emails may contain content that can offend the recipient or cause them confusion. Always have the recipient's permission to send them such emails.

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Message Content

Always include a subject line in email messages.
Almost all mailers present readers with the subject line when browsing mailboxes, and it's often the only clue the recipient has about the contents.

Make the subject line meaningful.
For example, sending a message to the Helpdesk with the subject "Need Help" is not very meaningful. A subject like "Need Help with Word margins" works much better.

Keep to the subject as much as possible.

If it is necessary to branch off onto a totally new and different topic then it's often better to send a new message, which allows the recipient the option of filing it separately.

Avoid typing messages in all-UPPERCASE.

UPPERCASE can be extremely difficult to read and is the email equivalent of yelling. However, a short stretch of uppercase may serve to EMPHASIZE a point.

Try to break messages into logical paragraphs and restrict sentences to sensible lengths.
Making an email easy to follow makes it easier to understand.

Use correct grammar and spelling.

Poorly-worded and misspelled messages are hard to read and potentially confusing.

Watch out when using formatting.

If an email program supports fancy formatting (bold, italic and so on) when creating messages; make sure the recipient has an email program which will display such messages before using formatting.

Remember to add attachments.

This seems obvious, but it is easy to forget.

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Replies

Know when to use Reply to All.
Only use Reply to All if the message needs to be seen by each person who received the original message.

When replying to a message but changing the topic of the conversation, change the subject too.

Or better still, start a new message altogether. The subject is usually the easiest way to follow the thread of a conversation, so changing the conversation without changing the subject can be confusing.

Include enough of the original message to provide a context.

An email recipient may not recall the contents of the original message. Including the relevant section from the original message helps the recipient to reply in context.

Determine if a reply is really warranted.

A message sent to a list server which only says "I agree" is probably better sent privately to the person who originally sent the message.

Don't reply to spam.

Spammers take replies as proof that an email address is valid and may sell it to other spammers.

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Guide Menu

What is the Need for Email Etiquette?

Email Courtesy

Message Content

Replies