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Email Etiquette

To be a good network citizen and to protect yourself and others, follow these guidelines when sending electronic mail.

What to Do

Write carefully. Once you send an email message, you cannot take it back or make it disappear. The reality is that your messages may be saved for a very long time. They may also be read inadvertently by others, or forwarded to others without your knowledge.

Use upper and lowercase text. Using all uppercase letters means SHOUTING. SEE WHAT I MEAN? Most people finding it annoying and harder to read.

Sign your messages with at least your name. It's nice to add your email address, too, since some email programs make it difficult to see who the sender of the message was.

Address your messages carefully. Some addresses may belong to a group, even though the address appears to belong to just one person.

Use the To, Cc, and Bcc fields correctly. Here are a couple of simple guidelines:

  • When sending to several people who know each other, it's okay to put their addresses in the To field.
  • When sending to many people who don't know each other, put their addresses in the Bcc field instead.
    (Why? Addresses in the To field are visible to all recipients. Addresses in the Bcc field are not. Using the Bcc field means you're protecting the email addresses, not sharing them broadly.)

Indicate humor or jokes with a sideways smiley face. :-)
The basic smiley is a colon, dash, and right parenthesis. There are many variations.
You can also include something like "<grin>" or "<sarcasm on>" to show your state of mind.

Be diplomatic. Criticism is always harsher when written, and email can be easily forwarded.

Be calm. You may have misunderstood what was meant. Don't reply while you're still angry (this is called "flaming").

Be brief. Don't include background images, pictures, animations, etc. unless they are critical to your message. When replying to a message, you don't have to include the entire text of the original message. Include just enough to give the context of your response.

Watch out for viruses and other threats in attached files. Attached files are a common way to spread computer viruses. Generally speaking, just receiving an attachment cannot infect your computer. But opening or running an attachment can.

If you don't know why you got an attachment, contact the sender directly to verify that it is what it appears to be. Some viruses can attach themselves without the sender even knowing it; some can hide where they actually came from. It is also a good idea to scan all attachments with up-to-date antivirus software before opening them.


What Not to Do

Don't forward chain mail! These messages tell you to send or forward them to several other people. Don't! Starting or continuing chain mail violates university policy.

Don't get fooled by Internet hoaxes and computer virus myths. Before you forward a so-called virus alert to everyone you know, check with the IT Service Desk or one of the web sites linked here to see if it's for real. It probably isn't.

Don't send unwanted email. It can be regarded as harassment, which is governed by university policies and codes. Sending email that someone else perceives as abusive or threatening may constitute criminal harassment.

Don't send numerous unsolicited messages ("junk mail" or "spam"). Most people hate getting junk mail. It also slows down the networks and is generally a waste of resources.

Don't forge messages. Altering electronic communications to hide your identity or impersonate another person is considered forgery and violates university policy. Even forgeries intended as pranks or jokes are considered violations.

Don't forward emails unless you have the permission of the author. What they wrote may not have been intended for wider distribution, so it's always better to ask.