Information Technology Services

Email Etiquette

Email Etiquette

In your day-to-day business you probably send and receive hundreds of messages.  If you are like most people, you have received messages with formatting that makes the message difficult to read or features that may not be appreciated.  Are you sending such messages?  Read through the information below to ensure your messages are neither quickly dismissed nor difficult to read.

Do not type in all caps. Typing in all caps is considered to be the equivalent of yelling or screaming online.  Various studies on the topic indicate that messages written in all capital letters are more difficult to read and take longer to understand.

Do not leave the Subject: field blank. Always fill in the Subject: field with a brief and concise description of the content of your email.  This is very important in helping those you communicate with organize and manage their email.  Important: avoid using all caps or all small case, terms such as Hi, Help or Please Respond, or the recipient's name in the Subject: field, as your sent email may be misidentified as a spam, and your email recipients may not receive your message.

On those rare occasions where it is necessary to send a large group of people the very same email, as a courtesy to those you are sending to, it is best to put all of the recipients email addresses in the BCC (Blind Carbon Copy)  field, as opposed to the To or CC fields.  When an email address is designated in the BCC field, the recipient will get a copy of the email while their email address remains invisible and protected from the view of the other recipients of the email.

Never give out phone numbers or personal information without confirming you are communicating with a reputable party.  Never give out personal contact information of others without their specific permission to do so.  Never include passwords, social security, credit card, or PIN numbers in your email.  If someone has sent you personal information, delete it before replying or forwarding their message.

Do not use Return Receipt Request (RR) for each and every email you send because you like "knowing" when someone opens your email.  Not only is this frustrating for the recipient, this feature is intrusive.  RRs should be reserved for those instances where it is critical for each side to know when the email was opened.  Such instances would include legal and important business issues.  Keep in mind that the recipient of your email can decline an RR request and you will not be notified that they received your message.

Do not forward virus warnings! Virus warnings received from others are generally always hoaxes. [Great Resource: McAfee's Virus Hoax Page]  Especially if an email tells you to forward to everyone you know--don't!!  Delete those emails and do not forward them!  Definitely ignore those forwarded emails instructing you to delete files on your computer - they could be critical files that your computer needs to operate.

Refrain from formatting your email with colored text and background colors or images in your day to day communications. Your color and formatting choices can make your emails difficult to read.  In addition, formatting could make your emails difficult to reply to without having to go through a procedure to convert your email to rich or plain text first.  Often, when folks hit Reply they have to deal with your formatting carrying over to their reply - which makes communicating with you unnecessarily difficult.  Using background graphics can lengthen the time necessary to download your message, especially if the recipient has a slow internet connection; not to mention that emails with included images take up more space in your Sent Items and Inbox.  If you do feel the need to use any type of formatting in your daily communications, do so sparingly.

If you have any questions concerning these recommendations, please contact the Help Desk directly at 508-793-7745 or at


Sharon Griffin Edson
February 2008