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A Publication Featuring The Information Services Technology of Maine State Government

E-mail Etiquette 

By Ron Grimard

There are some rules of etiquette we should practice and bad habits that we should avoid. Most of us are pro’s at sending and receiving E-mail messages, however you could be creating extra work for your co-workers without knowing it. Most of us work under the basic rule that all messages must be answered! This sometimes is pretty hard to do when you receive hundreds of messages each day. The following email etiquette guidelines is being put forth in hopes that it will help you manage the amount of time spend with your inbox or the amount of time you cause others to spend with their inbox. These guidelines are for users of any email system, please review them and see how you measure up.

Originator Etiquette:

  1. An effective Subject line is paramount. A good Subject line helps you and your message recipients view, file, search, and prioritize messages efficiently. Messages that arrive in your inbox that have been flagged as Priority or flagged Urgent should contain important information, not a false alarm.
  2. A Subject line should state exactly what the message is about and nothing more—most recipients can prioritize messages for themselves.
  3. Try to limit message text to one screen so the reader can quickly peruse the message for highlights and main points. Also, stay on topic and avoid long dialogs or discussions via email.
  4. Use Reply All with caution. In some situations, this option is necessary because all recipients need your response. However, a Reply All with the message body that says "Thanks" probably doesn't need to go to everyone. Closely related to Reply All is the Distribution List (DL). Make sure you use DLs with care, and when you see that a large DL has been used, ask yourself whether everyone needs your response before you click the Reply All button.
  5. Limit the use and size of attachments. (Users sometimes dial-in to handle their E-mail and large attachments don’t help!) Attachments aren't bad you just need to use them with care. When you add an attachment to a message, consider whether there is an alternative. For example, can you put the attachment on a server and provide a URL (http://server/file) or UNC (\\server\share) instead? This will save processing time for your email message especially across the Wan to a CC:Mail site that is going to "hold" the email because it exceeds 2meg.

Recipient Etiquette:

  1. Establish E-mail time. Set aside regular periods during the day when you can read and respond to your E-mail messages.
  2. For OUTLOOK users, organize your inbox. Create subfolders and organize your email into these folders. You can also use a personal store (.pst file) with Outlook, but be aware of your mailbox size limitation, monthly backups…etc.
  3. Delete unneeded messages, replies, and acknowledgments. Manage your deleted items folder by cleaning it out manually or simply deleting all items when you exit from your Mail application, set this as a standard function.
  4. Be careful about E-mail from unknown senders. Unsolicited and unwanted E-mail should be deleted. Attachments from these sources may contain viruses – beware!
  5. Don't oversubscribe. We're all tempted to subscribe to mailing lists and email newsletters that interest us. Make sure that you subscribe to only those that you really have the time to read or are interested in. You might want to set up a public folder and subscribe it to the list instead of having every user subscribe individually

A good solution for E-email overload doesn't exist, so we'll always be plagued with these issues. However, by putting some good practices into place and training users (and practicing what we preach), this very useful and business-critical tool can be manageable.

Ron Grimard is the Enterprise E-mail Administrator in the Network Services Division of BIS.

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