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Email Etiquette for Students

Email users need to be aware of accepted practices regarding the use of email as a communication tool. In addition, email messages lack cues such as vocal expression and body language that we use every day when communicating with others, and as a result, it is easy to convey the wrong impression or offend recipients of your message.

The guidelines below will help you get the most from your email system and avoid common mistakes. Please note, in addition to common courtesies, student email should be used in accordance with the Information and Communication Technology (ICT) Policy.

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Common Courtesies

  • Read your email regularly - daily if possible - email is used for University correspondence and class communications.
  • Reply promptly - if it is going to take considerable time to reply fully, acknowledge receipt of a message promptly and let the sender know when you expect to be able to answer.
  • If you receive a message intended for another person, don't just ignore it; reply to the sender and let them know the email was misdirected. If you know the intended recipient, forward it to them with a short explanation.
  • If you quote information received from any source, you should properly acknowledge it, just as you would in an academic essay or published work.
  • Never assume that because you have sent a message, it has been read.
  • Do not send "chain letters", and do not forward such letters to others.
  • Send your email to the smallest audience possible. Do not copy your email to large groups of people unless the message is of relevance to every recipient.
  • Don't expect an immediate answer. Email is all about dealing with communications when you are able to do so.
  • Do not label every message as high priority.

Keeping Out of Trouble

  • Don't write anything you wouldn't say in public. Emails are easily forwarded to others.
  • Do not redirect personal messages without the original sender's knowledge or consent.
  • Do not flame. Flaming is aggressive and abusive language used to criticise others.
  • Avoid the expression of extreme emotion or opinion in an email message. Do not draft and send an email message when you are upset or angry - once written and sent, it can't be recalled. Take time to cool down before reviewing your message.
  • Do not pretend you are someone else when sending email. To pretend you are someone is fraudulent and illegal.
  • Do not make changes to someone else's message and pass it on without making it clear where you have made the changes. This is misrepresentation/plagiarism.
  • Use humour, sarcasm and irony sparingly: they may not be self-evident to all readers. You can easily convey the wrong impression.
  • Remember that all laws governing copyright, defamation, discrimination and other forms of written communication also apply to email.

Creating Email Messages

Addressing an Email Message

  • Use the To: field for key recipients, and the Cc: field for people who are sent the message for their information only.
  • Keep the list of recipients to a minimum.

Constructing Good Email Messages

  • Keep your sentences and message short and concise. Leave out irrelevant details.
  • Write in a style that is appropriate for the recipient.
  • Capitalise words only to highlight an important point or distinguish a title or heading. Capitalising anything else would imply you are SHOUTING!
  • Include enough background information at the beginning of the email for the recipient to understand what the message is about.
  • Use spaced paragraphs, subheadings and lists of points to make your message easy to read.
  • Number multiple questions or requests.
  • If you use abbreviations or acronyms, be sure your recipient already knows what they stand for.
  • Avoid HTML tags or complex formatting. Not all mail systems will display these properly.
  • Take time to review your message.
  • Spell check before sending your message.
  • Attach supporting information as a separate file. Very long messages or messages that require formatting are also best sent as attachments.

Receiving and Responding to Messages

  • When replying or forwarding a message, ensure that the Subject: field still accurately reflects the content of your message.
  • Don't reply to all recipients of the original message - reply only to those who need a reply.
  • Put your reply at the top of the message.
  • When replying, do not quote the original message and signature. Delete non-essential text from the original message.

Email Signatures

  • Unless you are communicating with a close friend, include your email signature at the end of your message.
  • Your signature should be brief (4-5 lines) and informative (include a phone number).
  • Do not include drawings, quotations or anything non-essential in your signature.

For instructions on setting up an email signature in student email refer to the Microsoft Outlook Web App help pages.

Dealing with Misunderstandings

  • If a message generates emotion, read it again; reassess the message. Assume the message was sent in good intentions.
  • If a discussion is becoming emotionally charged, stop sending email speak to the person to clear up any misunderstandings.
  • When you are wrong or have issued an impulsive response, promptly admit it.

Out of Office Messages

Most places you travel to will have facilities for you to check your email. If you will be unavailable for an extended period, do the following:

  • Use the Vacation Message Facility to notify senders that you are away. Your message should state when you expect to be back, and whom they should contact if it is an emergency.
  • When you return, disable the Vacation Message so that senders no longer receive your away message.

For instructions on setting up automatic replies to student email refer to the Microsoft Web App help pages.