Guidelines for Using Email
Electronic mail is a unique medium of communication. Messages can be
replied to or forwarded with speed and ease, and email has the potential
to reach a wide audience. These features can also be misused. There are a
few basic guidelines for the responsible use of email that can help you
avoid common mistakes while you enjoy the full benefits of this
The privacy of an email message cannot be guaranteed. An email message may
be forwarded, printed, or permanently stored by any recipient. Email can be
misdirected, even when you are careful. Do not put something in an email
message that you would not want read by everybody. And if you receive a
message intended for someone else, let the sender know.
Email does not show the subtleties of voice or body language. Avoid
attempts at irony or sarcasm. The most effective email is short, clear,
and relevant. If you receive a message that makes you upset, do not
respond immediately, and in any case, avoid "flaming," that is, sending an
angry or rude message.
Included Messages - Who Said What?
You will notice that each line of the "included message" is preceded by one
or more new characters and/or is indented to different levels. This is
how newsreaders and mailing programs show who said what and when. Near the
top of the message should be a line which will indicate who is the author of
As you are editing messages be careful to keep the authors name/address
and the formatting that indicates who said what.
As you use email, keep the following tips in mind:
Email is easily forwarded to someone else. Although this is convenient, it
is not always appropriate. If you are unsure, ask the sender before you
forward a message.
Email replies may go to more people than you realize. When replying
to a message, be sure to look at the list of recipients.
Unwanted email is junk mail, so avoid unnecessary proliferation of
Email takes up computer space, so delete messages you no longer need.
The integrity of an email message cannot be guaranteed. If a received
message seems out of character for the sender, double-check before taking
Email is meant for informal correspondence as well as scholarly, scientific,
and clinical communications. You should not use email for official record
purposes where a memo would be required (e.g., personnel actions,
organization changes, contracts, and policy statements).
Email should not be considered private. Confidential information should
not be sent by email.
Don't use all capital letters. This is the e-mail version of SHOUTING,
and is considered rude.
- Sarcasm and humor are easily misinterpreted, and are best avoided,
especially when posting messages to public areas, or sending e-mail
messages to people you don't know well.
- Stay cool. Unlike paper correspondence, the immediacy of e-mail
lets you send off messages before you have taken time to think about the
- Consider other means of communication. The telephone is a two-way
communication system, which allows you to judge the other party's
mood and attitudes by their responses and tone of voice. Long
documents may be best sent on paper or by fax, especially if they
are heavily formatted, or include illustrations.
- Get to know the software. A message may look fine on your own
screen, but if the recipient is using a different sort of
computer, tabs, line breaks and special characters (such as
accented vowels in French) may not display properly.
- Spelling counts. Misspellings detract from your message, no matter
how good your point is. Pine, the program Victoria Telecommunity Network uses to
send mail, has a spell checker - hold down the CONTROL key, and
press t to begin the spell check.
- Give messages an accurate, descriptive subject. Some people get
dozens, maybe hundreds of messages a day. Accurate and concise
subject lines help users wade through large amounts of mail