Food for Thought Friday: Do You Have Email Netiquette?

by Kristie Burk

This is a tough subject, but one that needs to be discussed.  Do you have email netiquette? Email netiquette concerns guidelines that help you avoid creating misunderstandings or, worse, offending someone with your email.

Ask yourself if you’ve committed any of the following email “crimes”:

  1.  Have you ever forwarded an email chain to someone else withoutasking permission of the original sender? This is the number one netiquette rule that too many people break. If someone emails you, you should never, never, never forward the email to someone else without asking the permission of the other people on the email chain first.  Never.  If you absolutely need to involve someone else, start a new email chain. Why?
  • People usually email you with an expectation that it’s a private conversation.  They may not want someone else involved even if the email seems innocuous.
  • Sometimes you may accidentally forward information that the new recipient shouldn’t get.  This could be particularly dangerous if you’re discussing students.
  1. Do you forget to BCC parents when sending a distribution list?  When sending email messages to parents, especially if they’re in a distribution list, make sure you put the distribution list in the BCC line and send the email to yourself.  (Otherwise, you’re sharing email addresses without their permission.)
  2. Do you use educator acronyms?This is another important one.  When talking to people outside the district (parents) in an email, don’t assume that they know what “ESAR” means; use the term “report card” instead.  If you’re referring to “HAC,” call it “Home Access Center (HAC)” first.  Even terms like “summative” and “formative assessments” probably do not mean anything to the average layperson.
  3.  Do you “reply all” unnecessarily? Do not reply all unless it’s absolutely necessarythat every single person needs to hear your response. Every. single. person.
  4. Do you cc people all the time?  Don’t include other people on your email unless you know they must have the information. We all have too much email as it is.
  5. Do you have no signature on the bottom of your email that has your contact information? I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve wanted to call someone after they’ve emailed me and I have had to look up their contact information.  In Outlook, click on “signature” when you create an email and include your name, position and contact information.  Outlook will automatically add your signature to all subsequent email.
  6.  Is the subject of your email unclear? Lots of people get lots of email.  Make it easier for people to know what your email is about with a clear subject line.
  7.  Do you forget to let people know that their email has been received? I know this one is difficult, especially if you get a lot of email. However, it’s considered rude NOT to respond to an email that was sent to you directly (sales pitches and vendor email excluded). If you don’t have an answer, just send a quick email back to let people know that you’re going to need some time to work on getting the answer. People appreciate a wait-and-see response more than a non-response.
  8.  Do you get irritated when people don’t respond to your email quickly?Conversely, give people 24-48 hours to respond to your email. Don’t send an email and then email again 2 hours later asking for a response.  If it’s an emergency and you need a fast response, don’t rely on email.
  9. Have you ever sent an email accidentally? To avoid this, compose your email first and then put the recipient’s name in the “to” box when you’re done.  This way, if you hit “send” accidentally, nothing will happen.
  10.  Do you send email without proofreading?You can set Outlook to spell-check your email automatically before it’s sent.  In Outlook, click on “file,” “options” and “mail.” Then, select “ABC – always check email before sending.”

Did we forget any email “crimes?”  Let us know at


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