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Email Etiquette

We all want to experience the benefits of electronic mail in a way that is most effective, efficient and polite. The following tips can guide you in your use of electronic mail to maximize the communication flow.

  1. Messages should be concise and to the point. Too much information in one message is a burden on receivers. Bear in mind, screens are harder to read than words on paper.
  2. Avoid trivial or unnecessary responses. As a receiver, it is not necessary to reply to every mail message.  An email just to say "thank you," “ok,” “got it,” or “fine” is unnecessary. Assume that the receiver got your email unless you hear otherwise.
  3. Assume the messages you send and receive are permanent and public. Maintain your professionalism. Don't say anything in electronic mail that you would not want to be made public or forwarded to others.
  4. Outlook Express gives you the option of sending a return message to just the sender or to everyone who received the original message. Make sure you click on the “reply” button and not the “reply to all" when responding to the sender.
  5. Consider the presentation of your message: Writing in all UPPERCASE tends to convey anger or shouting. Breaking up text using short lines, paragraphs, and spaces is helpful in keeping your message readable. Do run spell check on each email before you send it (this can be set to run automatically).
  6. Avoid using the email system to send junk mail, chain letters, or widely broadcast information unnecessarily. Limit the number of electronic greeting cards you send through our system, too.
  7. Refrain from adding too many attachments to your electronic mail. Large, bulky messages tie up the network and are difficult to read. One photograph, saved as an electronic document, takes up as much memory as a long report.
  8. Indicate the specific topic of your mail message in the subject field. Clear subject headings make everyone's lives easier, helping with prioritizing, filing, cataloging, cross-referencing, and retrieval.
  9. Read SUBJECT lines BEFORE opening an email making sure you know the sender and subject before you open it.  This is how some viruses have been spread.
  10. Take care when opening attachments as this is another way of spreading viruses.
  11. Don't forward or edit an email message without the original sender's consent. This is particularly important in the case where the sender may consider the contents sensitive.
  12. Be sure to archive your email to get it off the server and onto your machine.  If you don’t know what this means or how to do this, contact the IT HELP DESK at 703.426.4141.

Remember that although electronic mail promises "instant" delivery, it does not guarantee an instant response! Do pick up the phone and call .  That personal touch still means more than an email ever will.

For additional email etiquette guidelines, click on