Email Etiquette

Written by Eric Hills

Last published at: August 13th, 2021

Email. It is essential to the functioning of any workplace but it also can add a lot of stress to our already busy days. The sheer volume of emails we receive daily can be daunting so I thought it would be good to go over a few etiquette tips that will help everyone and give you tips on how to manage your inbox. If we all do our part by following these etiquette tips, we will all be happier!

Email Etiquette:

  • Keep your message brief and to the point. Explicitly call out the action that is required by the person receiving the email. Novels are never your friend. 
  • Use the subject line as intended. The subject line tells the person receiving your message what your message is all about. Include the audience for the email if you think some people will not need to read it such as “8th Grade Only” or “Advisors Only.” Conversely, do not write your entire email message in the subject line. 
  • Create a signature. Your signature should include your name, title/position, and location. Not only do signatures look more professional but they can help avoid confusion when you are sending to people that don’t know you.
  • Use the “send later” function of Outlook. Outlook added this feature so you can now send an email later. This is great if you are answering something late at night or over the weekend if you want to respect the work-life balance of your colleagues. If it can wait until Monday or the next day, you can schedule it to send then!
  • Don’t reply to an email with an unrelated question. If you are replying with a question about that email, click reply. If you want to ask that person a question that does not pertain to their email, create a new message. This keeps the conversation separate and allows you to organize your emails by conversations, which saves on confusion.
  • Don’t use reply all. This function basically never makes sense for large organizations. CC people that might want to know your answer to the question but otherwise avoid this at all costs. If you need a flowchart to make this decision, click here. Save the inbox of your colleagues and just say no to “reply all.” 
  • Avoid unnecessary replies. If you aren’t advancing the conversation, it’s okay to not reply. As long as the person in question knows that you received their message, it may be unnecessary. If no further action is required, do everyone’s inbox a favor and end the conversation.
  • Use work email for work. I love Girl Scout Cookies as much as the next person but emails should be for work-related functions. Keep the advertising to a minimum.
  • District email is public record. All district email is subject to FOIA and could be subject to a FOIA request in the future. Keep email work related and professional.

Managing your Inbox:

  • Mark messages unread or flag them. When you open an email you don’t have time for in the moment, flag it so you know to come back later. 
  • Prioritize. If an email is going to take you a while to respond to or the information is important and you need to internalize it, wait until you have time to read and respond. 
  • Use the “Focused Inbox.” This directs newsletters and other large-scale emails to a separate folder. This allows you to focus on important conversations and worry about the ads and newsletters later.
  • Arrange your Inbox by conversations. This will arrange your messages into threaded conversations that are easier to follow and reply to. This is a great way to view emails but it depends on whether people adhere to #5 listed above by only replying to your email with questions related to the topic of your original message.
  • Use Folders. Create folders for information you know you will want to go back to. Delete items in your Inbox that you don’t need. 
  • Create and use distribution lists. If you plan to email a group of people within the district fairly often, create a distribution list that only includes the people that need to receive your email. The district has also recently created more well-defined email lists so that you are zeroing in on your target audience.