Best practices of emails

email cartoonGive email back its power! The Office of Communications is conducting an email awareness campaign to help everyone make email more efficient.

1. SUBJECT: Make sure your subject line is an accurate summary of your message content. Tips:

  • Subject lines such as "Question," "Important" or "Your thoughts?" are not sufficient.
  • You have the first 40 characters to make a first impression. Descriptive and well-written subject lines allow recipients to make an informed decision to get more details or move on.
  • If in the course of a long email thread the subject changes entirely, give it a new subject line to continue the conversation.

2. CLARITY: Make it clear what you're writing about from the very first sentence. Tips:

  • When initiating an email conversation, assume your readers won't know what you're talking about.
  • Include all pertinent details so that your reader can respond appropriately - if your reader has to reply with more questions before the conversation can continue, it just creates more email for everyone. 

3. ACRONYMS: Avoid using acronyms unless you're certain your reader knows what they mean. Tips:

  • Chances are those three letters that are integral to your world mean something entirely different to someone else.

4. URGENCY: If it really is urgent, consider using the phone before marking your email "high priority."

5. CC: Think of an email as a conversation with another person before you decide to add people to the CC line.  Do you need to bring him/her in at this point of the conversation?

6. TONE: Take care and use the appropriate tone - remember that emails can easily be misinterpreted. Tips:

  • Simple greetings such as "good morning," as well as "please" and "thank you," help convey politeness and collegiality.
  • Refrain from using multiple !!!s and ???s, which can seem rude or condescending.
  • Avoid ALL CAPS, which are the equivalent of yelling at someone.
  • Similarly, avoid using all lower-case letters, which are hard to read.

The rules of civility apply to emails as well. 

7. ACCURACY: Proofread and edit your emails. Tips:

  • This is particularly important if you're sending out to a group . You want to avoid mistakes coming in and having to resend everything to so many people.

8. CONTACT INFO: Add a signature block with contact information - your name, title, and phone number(s). Tips:

  • Including images in signature blocks, even the beloved Jayhawk, can sometimes appear to be attachments, leading your reader to spend extra time clicking on them to see if they're important.
  • Similarly, using different colored and styles of fonts can be distracting and hard to read.  

9. JUDGMENT: Remember that as an employee of a public institution, your emails are considered public property. Newspaper reporters and others can request copies of your emails. If you wouldn't want to see your email in a newspaper, don't send it.

Last modified: Jun 11, 2014
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