Rules for proper email use


Netiquette (a contraction of the words "Net" and "etiquette") refers to the set of rules governing correct behavior on the Internet, in order to respect others and be respected in turn.

They serve as guidelines for civility and proper conduct, so that all users can act in a like manner respectful of others.

When composing and sending a message

  • Indicate the subject of the message clearly in the "Subject" field. This is particularly critical for the recipient If the message's subject is explicit, it will make it much easier for the recipient, when looking at all the emails received, to tell which ones are most important and which less so. This will also allow the recipient to easily sort out their mail. You can make a distinction between a general subject, normally placed within brackets (such as for the name of a project) and a short summary of the message; for example:
    [Project X] Meeting on 13 December
  • Only send email to people who are involved - It is ill-advised, and annoying for recipients, to send email to anyone you know. Recipients waste valuable time sorting out the messages which actually involve them from those which they have little or no interest in. What's more, this practice needlessly ties up network resources.
    • The "To:" field designates the primary recipient. This is the person to whom the email is addressed.
    • The "Cc:" field designates people who are being kept informed about this email communication.
    • The "Bcc:" field designates recipients whom the other recipients cannot see. It is recommended to not use this feature. Instead, it is advisable to separately forward them a copy of the preceding message.
  • Be brief and give ample context for the message. To be read and understood, it is preferable to use short, precise sentences. If the message is long, divide it into multiple paragraphs to make it easier to read. A precise, well-structured text helps prevent misunderstandings or misinterpretations. A message can be quickly and easily forwarded to other users. Use suitable language, and avoid misplaced humor, sarcasm, and insults. For the benefit of recipients in professional settings, it is helpful to begin a message with one of the following phrases:
    • For your information
    • For your approval
    • Follow-up
  • If documents must be attached to the message, take the recipients into consideration. The recipient of an attached file might not have the software to read it. Make sure that the file is saved in a format which most current software can read. (e.g. .rtf instead of .doc). Additionally, be aware of the attachment's size. The larger the size of the file, the longer it will take to send and receive. A hefty attachment might be blocked by the remote email server, or fill up the recipient's inbox, preventing other messages from being received. Use compression/decompression utilities (such as ZIP) to reduce the size of these files.
    Before sending a message which is supposed to contain an attachment, make sure that the attachment is really there!
  • Avoid using uppercase letters. Text written in uppercase is difficult to read. What's more, using words in all capital letters on the Internet indicates that you are expressing strong emotions (such as joy or anger), which the recipient of your message might not take well. To emphasise a term, place it in quote marks instead.
  • Before sending a message, take the time to reread it. Try correcting typos or language errors. The style of the message reflects the sender's image.
  • Make sure you identify yourself, and leave contact information at the end of the message. Consider leaving your signature at the bottom of your emails, but without taking up too much space (four or five lines at the most), specifying, e.g. your occupation and the organization you belong to. Telephone numbers may be useful if one of the recipients needs to contact you quickly. Custom dictates that the signature be preceded by a line containing nothing but two dashes ("--").

When receiving a message

  • When a message has been read, decide immediately where to file it. Email can be managed just like traditional mail. To find a message easily, make a habit of filing the messages you receive into folders by topic. This way, it will be easier to find an old message or discussion thread. Some email clients let you assign a color to a message. It may be useful to set a color code for identifying certain categories of messages.
  • Except where necessary, do not print out emails. When email is filed properly, it may be easily found if needed. For this reason, it is useless to print out every email. This prevents wasting paper, helping to preserve the environment.
  • Respect the private nature of the messages you receive. Never forward or copy to others an email personally addressed to you without the consent of the original sender.

On using emoticons (smileys)

Emoticons (sometimes called smileys) are symbols included in messages to indicate the mood of the person who wrote the message (humorous, sarcastic, ironic, etc.) Their use is normally reserved for non-professional messages.

To create an emoticon, simply use punctuation symbols. To see them more easily, tilt your head 90 degrees to the left.

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