Email guidelines

You may want to print out these email guidelines and keep them on your desk. They contain 55 tips to help re-enforce email best practice.

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Here is a preview of the Guidelines:

Email Etiquette

Email Management:

Consider using a different medium

·       Email is a very constricted medium of communication: there is no body language, no tone of voice and no immediate visual or audible feedback. Some messages will be better communicated using a different medium.

·       Consider whether it will be more effective to pick up the phone instead of sending an email.

·       When it is appropriate go and talk to people that sit close by you rather than using email.

·         For some issues it may be best to save them for a scheduled meeting rather than try and communicate with them by email.

·       Never respond to an angry email – phone or go and see the person face to face.

·       If you receive an angry email, settle down, re-read and re-think instead of sending an angry reply.

·       An email may appear to have been written in anger when it has simply been written quickly.
If you are in doubt, phone or go and see the sender.

Think about the recipient(s) of your emails

·       Put yourself in the recipient’s shoes and read your email through before you send it.

·       Think about their style of reading, writing and doing business – and their culture and values.

·       Consider whether it is a good use of the recipient’s time to read your email and attachments – if it is not then do not send them.

·       Might they be reading your email on a handheld device? If so keep the message short.

·       Do not try and gain consensus on a complex issue using email.

·       Check the spelling of people’s names. People may get upset if you misspell their name.


Email Messages

·       Do not send long and rambling emails.

·       Keep emails short, succinct and to the point – without coming across as rude.

·       If you send clear emails you will get clearer (and faster) responses.

·       Use bullet points to get across information clearly.

·       Put a summary at the top of longer emails.

·       Read your email carefully before sending – check for spelling, grammar, tone and meaning.

Subject Lines

·       Do not leave the subject line blank.

·       Make the subject line clear giving action and by when so it can be prioritised from the inbox.

·       Indicate in subject line if the person needs to do something.

·       Keep the subject line no more than 35 characters long (including spaces) otherwise they can get truncated and be difficult to read.

·         Consider using prefixes in subject lines: REQ = request; FYI = for your information
URGENT = only when it is; ACTION = an action is required; EOM = end of message.

Replying and Cc’ing

·       An email to 250 people can easily take a day of time out of the organisation.

·       Avoid cc’ing people when they do not need your email.

·       When you do have to cc people let them know WHY you are cc’ing them.

·       Avoid using ‘reply to all’ unless you really need to.

·       Remove long sections of historical text unless it is required

·         Send links or shortcuts in favour of attachments.

Cross cultural communication using email (from a UK perspective)

·       They have taken the trouble to learn how to speak English – aim to fit in with them.

·       Use simple words and short sentences.

·       Avoid jargon, clichés and colloquialisms.

·       Put dates in full and use letters (e.g. GBP, USD, EUR) for currencies rather than symbols.

·       Avoid humour – it will not be understood.


Legalities of email

·       Emails are admissible as evidence in court.

·       Email can be permanent and can easily get into the public domain.

·       Do not put yourself in a position where you have to justify what you have written.

·       Remember that an email can constitute a contract – or a variation on an existing contract.

·       Do not say something in an email to someone that you would not be prepared to say to their face.

·       Familiarise yourself with the organisational email policy.


·      Unsubscribe from external email lists that are no longer of use to you.

·       If people send you CC’s that you do not want or need - politely let them know. If you do not they will keep sending unnecessary CC’s and you will keep having to deal with them.

·         Do not answer emails as you receive them - constant interruptions will make you less focused - turn off audible and visual alerts.

·       Check your email at regular intervals that are appropriate to your job.

·       Keep your inbox to one screen so you can keep important messages visible.

·       Aim to handle each email just once - reply and then immediately file or delete messages.

·       To avoid hitting your email limits (if you have them). Empty sent items and deleted items regularly. Also save attachments to a drive and delete them from your email account. Search for large attachments and store them somewhere else.

·       Use rules and have Outlook manage some of your regular traffic for you.

·      Find out about the other features within Outlook – go on some training.


·       Use the ‘Invite Attendees’ function to save time organising meetings rather than sending separate emails.

·       When using ‘out of office’ provide information that will benefit your recipients (such as when you will return, who they can speak to in your absence).

·       Refrain from sending attachments whenever possible as they slow down the network – for better version control and a faster network send links or shortcuts to files on shared drives.