Email Etiquette

There are many email etiquette tips and guidelines that have been identified to help us communicate effectively online. Below is a list of some of our top tips to apply as you send email to internal and external audiences.

Your email is a reflection of you and the College.

Every email you send adds to or detracts from your reputation and that of the College. If your email is scattered, disorganized and filled with mistakes, the recipient will be inclined to think of you or the College in a similar way.

Make sure your email signature adheres to the College's style.

To ensure that your email signature has a professional look, please follow the policies and standards outlined in the Communication Guide. Quotes, photos, images, backgrounds and wallpapers are inappropriate for email sent out on behalf of the College.

Respond in a timely fashion.

Unless you work in some type of emergency capacity, it's not necessary to be available the instant an email arrives. Depending on the nature of the email and the sender, responding within 24 to 48 hours should be acceptable. If your email needs an immediate reply, particularly outside of business hours, indicate it in the email or subject line.

Keep it short and get to the point.

Write concisely and don’t overwhelm the recipient. Make sure when you look at what you're sending that it doesn't look like a burden to read. Use bullet points where appropriate. State the purpose of the email within the first two sentences. Be clear and be up front.

Beware of "reply all."

Do not hit "reply all" unless every member on the email chain needs to know. You want to make sure that you are not sending everyone on a list your answer, especially if they don’t need to know.

Be clear in your subject line.

With inboxes getting clogged by hundreds of emails a day, it’s crucial that subject lines get to the point. Make sure your subject line is reasonably simple and describes what you have written about. Also, proof your subject line as carefully as you proof the rest of the email.

Your subject line must match the message.

Never open an old email, hit reply and send a message that has nothing to do with the previous one. Do not hesitate to change the subject as soon as the thread or content of the email chain changes.

Remember the attachments.

Remember to include attachments and fill in the subject line. You might want to use a tool that makes sure your emails always have subject lines and attachments when you write something like "attachment enclosed."

Provide a warning when sending large attachments.

Sending unannounced large attachments can clog the receiver's inbox and cause other important emails to bounce. If you are sending a file larger than 500KB such as a photo, you should ask, “Would you mind if I sent you an attachment? When would be the best time for you?”

No more than two attachments and provide a logical name.

Unless it has been specifically requested, refrain from sending a message with more than two attachments. Also, give the attached file(s) a logical name so the recipient knows what it’s about at a glance.

Refrain from sending one-liners.

"Thanks," and "Oh, OK" do not advance the conversation in any way. Feel free to put "No Reply Necessary" at the top of the email when you don't anticipate a response.

Be careful about your tone.

It's hard to read tone in an email. Be careful not to inject attitude or sarcasm into your replies, and give emails that you think have "an attitude" the benefit of the doubt. Also be really careful when trying to be funny — it's easy to misinterpret humor in email.

Lose the emoticons.

Be very selective about how you use emoticons. Most business email should not have little smileys in them.

Never send an angry or contentious email.

Angry emails are never a good idea. More often than not, they just create more anxiety and more email. When a confrontation is brewing, a conversation in person or on the phone is almost always best. Emails leave too much room for misunderstanding. Read "The Five Levels of Communication in a Connected World."

Don’t use email to criticize others.

Email is a terrific way to commend someone or praise them. It is not an appropriate medium for criticism. Chances are, you will simply offend the other person, and they will miss your point.

Don’t send or forward emails containing libelous, defamatory, offensive, racist or obscene remarks.

If you do so, you can put yourself or the College at risk. You could be sued for simply passing something along, even if you aren’t the original author.

Email should not be used as an excuse to avoid personal contact.

Don't forget the value of face-to-face or even voice-to-voice communication. Email communication isn't appropriate when sending confusing or emotional messages.

Use the telephone.

When a topic has lots of parameters that need to be explained or negotiated and will generate too many questions and confusion, don't handle it via email. Also, email should not be used for last minute cancellations of meetings, lunches, interviews and never for devastating news. If you have an employee or a friend you need to deliver bad news to, a phone call is preferable. If it's news you have to deliver to a large group, email may be more practical.

Maintain privacy of email addresses.

If you're sending a message to a group of people and you need to protect the privacy of your list, use "Bcc."

Remember that email isn't private.

Email is considered College property and can be retrieved, examined and used in a court of law. Never put in an email message anything that you wouldn't put on a postcard. Remember that email can be forwarded, so unintended audiences may see what you've written. You might also inadvertently send something to the wrong party, so always keep the content professional to avoid embarrassment.

Make sure your email signature adheres to the College’s Communication Guide

To ensure that your email signature has a professional look, please follow the policies and standards outlined in the Communication Guide. Quotes, photos, images, graphics, backgrounds and wallpapers are inappropriate for email sent out on behalf of the College.

Re-read your email before you send it.

Make a habit of proofreading the entire message — especially after your final edits. Try to do this with every single message. It is not unusual to drop a word or two as you are racing to transcribe a thought. Make sure that you are communicating clearly and observing good email etiquette.