Tips to remember when using e-mail

Composing messages:

  • Use correct spelling and proper grammar-just as if you were writing a business or personal letter on paper.
  • Emoticons have their place (to help to convey the tone your message) as long as you don't overuse them. They are not generally recommended for use in business related messages.
  • Be short and concise in your e-mails--they will have a better chance of being read by the recipient.
  • Keep the subject line brief and of relevance to you and the person on the other end. (Especially true with a message that has been replied to several times.) This will help them decide which messages in their inbox need attention first.  

Using attachments:

  • When you do send a message with an attachment, try composing your message in the following order:
    1. Attach the attachment (So you don't forget it!)
    2. Compose the body of your e-mail
    3. Fill in the subject line (So you don't forget it!)
    4. Fill in the "To" section (So if you hit the send button prematurely, it won't go anywhere!)

    (This procedure may help eliminate those "Oops-I forgot to attach the attachment" follow-up messages!)

  • Do not open any attachment you aren't expecting-especially if you don't know the sender! If the sender is someone you know, check with them before opening the attachment.
  • Does the recipient open his/her e-mail often enough that they will have time to act on the e-mail if need be?  Many people check e-mail infrequently--a phone call or personal visit may be more in order in a case such as this.
  • Before sending an e-mail with an attachment, please check with your intended recipient to make sure it's okay to do so. Overly large attachments may take a very long time to download over a dial-up connection, or your recipient may not have the necessary software installed on their computer to view your attachment.  (If the attachment is small, it may be best to simply copy it into the body of your message to make it easy on the receiving end!)

When is email not appropriate?

  • It is best not to use e-mail to convey emotional messages or ones that contain criticism.  Your recipient can't hear the tone of your message and it could easily be misinterpreted. (Not everything can be communicated via e-mail.)
  • Do not send chain letters, jokes or junk e-mail without the permission of the recipients. Many people are deluged with e-mails over the course of a day, and may not appreciate having their inboxes clogged with unnecessary messages in which they have no interest.
  • Do not send anything in an e-mail that you would not want anyone else to see. It is too easy for any email to get inadvertently forwarded to an incorrect address, possibly resulting in great humilation-or worse- for the original author. (Remember how easy it is to hit the send button without thinking?)  Putting something in writing makes it somehow seem "permanent"!
  • Replacing a meeting or phone conversation with an e-mail message is not always appropriate. Repeated replies, bcc's, and cc's can too easily confuse the subject of the original e-mail and bog down the entire process.

Be considerate of others

  • Make sure your reply to an e-mail appears at the top of any quoted text or it may be overlooked by the recipient. (Outlook does this automatically.) They also won't have to spend time searching the entire message for your reply.
  • If you receive an e-mail intended for someone else, let the sender know.
  • When forwarding an e-mail cut out all headers and any unnecessary information to make it easier to read. Cutting out the headers also stops the sharing of e-mail addresses of others who have received the message previously. (Not everyone likes to have their addresses made public!)  Along the same vein, use "bcc" for your addresses when sending to a number of people to protect each individual's privacy.
  • Try to refrain from using any fancy formatting or stationery--your recipient's e-mail program may not be able to display it correctly and may make the message very hard to read.

And the most important tip of all--always stop and think for 10 seconds before you hit the "send" button!!! It may help to prevent the "I wish I hadn't sent that" feeling!

Article number: 
Last updated: 
May 19, 2016