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Sept. 12, 2013 Volume 35, No. 4

Email etiquette: minding your electronic manners

At some time, you have probably accidently sent an email to the wrong person.  Chances are you have also inadvertently hit reply all when you really just intended to respond to one or two of the recipients.  Maybe you have even sent an email that you later apologized for because the recipient was not able to discern your tone within the written content.  In 2012, 144 billion emails were sent and received per day worldwide, according to the Radicati Group, a technology market research firm.  An email mistake is bound to happen at some point given our heavy reliance on electronic communication; however, effective and proper written communication is attainable when you learn from the most common email missteps.

The Division of Information Technology presents these best practices for electronic communication:

Know when email is not your best option. You have no control over an email once you hit send.  An email has the potential to go viral quickly. Private matters should not be communicated electronically just to avoid uncomfortable face-to-face conversations. Also, remember the university has an obligation to access your email communications when legal requests for these records arise. 

Represent your best self.  Email may suggest a casual vibe, but you should know your target audience and present yourself accordingly. Keep professional emails precise, straightforward and formal. You may customize your fonts and stationary, but be aware of how it may reflect on you. Also, do not rely on spell check alone to catch errors. 

The recipient will not be able to use verbal cues or body language to decipher your tone. Email has a tendency to feel abrasive. In addition, sarcasm is often lost in written form; therefore, it is best just to be straightforward in emails.    

Simmer down before you shoot off an email. If you sense yourself getting emotional while drafting an email, don’t send it. Save the draft and read it again after you have had a chance to calm down. 

Verify the name and email address of the recipient before hitting send.  Most of the time auto-complete will provide you with email recipient options as you type a name in the “to” field. But this feature can be a detrimental. Always double check your recipients before clicking send.

Use distribution lists wisely. Distribution lists are a fast and easy way to send an email to many people. However, before sending it, be confident that the email correspondence is appropriate for mass distribution. When content only applies to a subset of members, you are in fact spamming the rest of the group. Another consideration is the maintenance of the distribution list group members. If a distribution list is not kept current, you could be sending sensitive information to members who are no longer privy to that information.  

‘Reply All’ with care.  Do not choose “reply all” if your response is sensitive or you have a question for just one of the email receivers. Before sending your communication you should review the “to” field to verify you are not responding to the entire group. 

For more information, go to, or call 882-2000.