Email guidelines

Tips for making your emails effective and accessible.

Essential email etiquette

Will your message cause offence or be ambiguous?

Write simply and be cautious with humour. When talking to someone face to face or by phone, you can change your tone immediately if you sense misunderstanding. With an email message, you have to guess how the other person will feel when they read it — they may be having a bad day 

Should your message be treated as confidential?

If your message is confidential, make this clear at its start. Otherwise, your recipient may forward your message to other people, and an opinion you thought you were expressing in private becomes a published statement!  This can have serious consequences if you are using email to express an opinion about a person or about their work. 

Aids to readability 

Using short paragraphs helps on-screen readability. Huge chunks of solid text are daunting, and obscure any structure in your ideas. The white space above and below a paragraph also gives a visual cue to your reader. 

Should you mark your message ‘important’? 

Your recipients may not feel it is important, even if you do. Use it sparingly. Otherwise people may defiantly postpone reading your email, out of irritation. 

Forward a message to others?

Preserve the thread

When you reply, include the original message text. This is automatic unless you switch it off. It gives the historical ‘thread’ and is helpful to your reader, especially where there has been a lengthy discussion with several contributors.

Use precise distribution

Avoid using a much wider list than you need. Some people on that list would probably regard your email as Spam! Often, there will be an existing but narrower list that you can use, adding a few extra names to your message to get the coverage you need. If there is no distribution list that matches your intended audience, you can create your own or request that a new public list is created.

Privacy and security

Email is not a completely secure medium.  Within the University, there are various measures in place to help keep the data network secure. Even so, you should not send highly sensitive information by email unless it has been encrypted - see the Information Protection Policy on the IT website.

Use an Expiry Date

When you set an expiry date on a message, it will be deleted from the recipients Inbox on that date if it is unread.  If the recipient does read the message and leaves it in the inbox, it appears with a strikethrough. 

This could be useful especially over holiday periods.  Using expiry dates means that you don’t have to sort through messages which are no longer relevant upon your return from leave.  So all those messages that you get informing you of works going on whilst you’re away would be removed from your inbox automatically if the sender included an expiry date.

To set an expiry date in Outlook 2013: