Etiquette: How to be a good email citizen

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

1. Use the carbon copy and blind carbon copy appropriately. Tips:

  • Be cautious with your use of CC: ̶ overuse simply clutters inboxes. Copy only people who are directly involved.
  • Don't use BCC: to keep others from seeing who you copied. Do use BCC:, however, when sending to a large distribution list so recipients won't have to see a huge list of names.

2. Keep messages brief and to the point. Tips:

  • Everyone is busy, so email is not the time to be long-winded. Wading through an email message that is twice as long as necessary can waste time and energy. Concentrate on one subject per message whenever possible.

3. Be informal, not sloppy. Tips:

  • Your email message reflects KU Medical Center, so traditional spelling, grammar, and punctuation rules apply. Particularly when communicating with external contacts, everyone should follow standard writing protocol. Avoid using text-speak in emails.

4. Be sparing with group email. Tips:

  • Send group email only when it's useful to every recipient. Use the "reply all" button only when compiling results requiring collective input and only if you have something to add.

5. Summarize long discussions. Tips:

  • Scrolling through pages of replies to understand a discussion is time-consuming. Instead of continuing to forward a message string, take a minute to summarize it for your reader. You could even highlight or quote the relevant passage, then include your response. 

6. Don't use email as an excuse to avoid personal contact. Tips:

  • Don't forget the value of face-to-face or even voice-to-voice communication. Don't use email to avoid an uncomfortable situation or to cover up a mistake. Calm down before responding to a message that offends you. If things become very heated, a lot of misunderstanding occurs, or when you are delivering very delicate news, best way is still face-to-face.

7. Remember that your tone can't be heard in email. Tips:

  • Email communication can't convey the nuances of verbal communication. In an attempt to infer tone of voice, some people use emoticons, but don't assume that using a smiley face will diffuse a difficult message. 

8. Don't forget to use "please" and "thank you." Remember — rules of civility apply to email as well.

9. Remember that email isn't private. Tips:

  • Email is considered company property and can be retrieved, examined, and used in a court of law. Never put in an email message anything that you wouldn't put on a postcard. Remember that email can be forwarded, so unintended audiences may see what you've written. You might also inadvertently send something to the wrong party, so always keep the content professional to avoid embarrassment.

10. Use the subject field to indicate content and purpose. Don't just say "Hey" or something similarly vague.

11. Don't forward chain letters, virus warnings, or junk mail. Tips:

  • Always check with our IT department before sending out an alarm. If a constant stream of jokes, cute photos or warnings that inevitably end up being urban legends or hoaxes from a co-worker annoys you, be honest and ask to be removed from their list. Direct personal email to your home email account.

12. Use a signature that includes important contact information — but don't overdo it. Tips:

  • To ensure that people know who you are, include a signature that has your contact information, website URL, email address and phone numbers. But there are few people who need to list more than three phone numbers, emails, fax numbers and websites. Avoid tacking on inspirational quotes or graphics to a work signature.
Last modified: Jun 19, 2014
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