Email Best Practices

Making the most of email

How would our University function without email? It has become a critical tool that allows us to communicate quickly, effectively and on our own schedule. At some times, it is the best way to share important information.

But email can have its disadvantages. The tone of a message may be misread by the recipient. The simplicity of sending an email also can entice some of us to avoid personal interaction, or copy (CC) a large group of people who may have no interest or involvement in receiving information.

The following tips may be helpful in using email most effectively.

Let’s talk!

In the 2012 We Speak Survey, members of the Western Engineering community said they want better and more respectful communications. Why not try skipping the email, walk down the hall and have a conversation with your colleague?

  • Emails may be faster in some cases, but a two way conversation is a better way to work on ideas together, explain complex ideas or plans, and convey emotional content.
  • A conversation may seem to take longer, but could save time in the long run.

Give me that balance

The We Speak survey also said you want a better work/life balance. Sometimes email can cause stress.

  • Choose how much time you want to spend responding to email. If you receive too many non-important emails, contact senders and ask them to stop. Set your work priorities for the day. Decide where responding to emails fits into those priorities, and set aside the right amount of time to do email.
  • Set aside some hours in the day when you DON’T respond to emails. That will help keep the work flow going!
  • Be conscious of why you check your email. You are important and many people need you? You want to connect with others? You like responding quickly to people? It is easier than doing other work? When you know why you check your email often, you can take control of when and why you check for new emails.

When not to use email

  • When you require an immediate response to an urgent issue.
  • When you have a disagreement with someone that you know will generate a response. Sending an email from your smart phone? This can be even riskier because we use abbreviated sentences that may be misinterpreted. If messages go back and forth more than two times, or if you receive an angry or inflammatory email, then it may be best to pick up the phone or continue the discussion in person.
  • To respond to an email you don’t understand. Pick up the phone for clarification.
  • Some suggestions to keep your friends and colleagues happy
  • Use descriptive subject lines – this will allow people to know why you are writing and find your email later when needed. Use “Agenda – ABC Committee May 18” not “Meeting agenda”.
  • Don’t type in all capital letters. Be aware, all caps implies YOU ARE SHOUTING!
  • Don’t hit “Reply All” to say thanks, or to provide information that is only relevant to one person.
  • Don’t copy any person who does not need to receive the email.
  • Never send a large attachment, when a link to the Internet or to a shared drive will work. Attachments consume storage space. When receiving email attachments, save them to a file folder and delete it from the email system so they don’t take up space.
  • Limit the use of attachments when possible. Incorporate the content into the body of the email message when possible. This also assists recipients who may be viewing the email message on a device other than their desktop or laptop computer.
  • Don’t spam your colleagues. Don’t forward jokes (even the really good ones), chain messages or other junk.
  • Beware of phishing attacks. Western is getting hit regularly and the attacks are increasing in complexity. Western’s Information Technology Services offers information and advice at Keep in mind, Western will NEVER send you an email asking you to verify your username and password. Not sure? Call the Engineering ITG Help Desk at ext. 88112.

Vacation email

  • Many people don’t use vacation or out-of-office emails. You should! It helps others know they won’t hear from you and allows you to take a breather.
  • Let people know if you intend to check/respond to emails.
  • Let them know when you will return.
  • Let them know who to contact in your absence.
  • Want to totally disconnect? Try this vacation email which asks others to take responsibility for following up when you return:
  • I am away from the office until June 27th. I will not be checking emails while away. If you still require my assistance or a reply from me, please contact me again on or after June 27th. If you need assistance in the meantime, please contact xxxxx.