The following guidelines are derived from those in use at many locations on the Internet and is an attempt to highlight important issues affecting the electronic mail we send. Information Technology Services recommends these guidelines be adopted by all users of email at MSU-Northern.
Things to Keep in Mind
- Never send any confidential or sensitive information via email - this applies to your information or anyone else's. There are no security guarantees with electronic mail. Don't send anything you would not want to see become public. Remember, it's very easy for someone else to forward messages you thought were confidential.
- Sending email from your MSU-Northern account is similar to sending a letter on MSUN letterhead, so don't say anything that might discredit or embarrass the University.
- Be very careful how you express yourself, especially if you feel heated about the subject. Take time to consider you message before sending it - don't reply "in the heat of the moment", even if you are provoked.
- When you compose an e-mail message, read it over before sending it and ask yourself what your reaction would be if you received it. Time spent on making e-mail clearer is time well spent.
- Check your mail regularly.
- Don't leave your email account open when you leave your computer. Anyone could sit down at your keyboard and send out libelous/offensive/embarrassing messages under your name. Never give another person access to your e-mail account.
- Don't send message or replies to "all users" unless there is a very specific need for everyone to receive the message. It wastes storage space, clutters up In Boxes and can be very annoying.
See also: Guidelines for appropriate use of "all campus" electronic mail messages.
- Subject Lines
- ALWAYS include a subject line in your message
- Make the subject line meaningful!
- If you are replying to a message but are changing the subject of the conversation, change the subject too.
- Include enough of the original message to provide a context. The recipient may not recall the contents of the original message.
- Pay careful attention to where your reply is going: you wouldn't want a personal message to end up on a mailing list.
- Message Length, Content, Format
- In general, keep to the subject as much as possible.
- Don't type your message in all uppercase - It's difficult to read and is generally regarded as SHOUTING. Use uppercase only for emphasis. Another way to emphasize words is to bracket them with *asterisks*.
- Use correct grammar and spelling. Poorly worded and misspelled messages are hard to read and potentially confusing. However, do try to be tolerant of other peoples mistakes.
- If you are including an attachment, be aware of how large it is.
- Forwarding Messages
- THINK before you forward any message. If you had sent it, would you want it forwarded without your knowledge? If you have any doubt, ASK the original sender if it is ok to forward.
- If you are forwarding a message with an attachment, ask your self if they need the attachment or do you just want them to see the message.
A "Signature" is a small block of text appended to the end of your messages, which usually contains your contact information.
- Always use a signature if you can: make sure it identifies who you are and includes alternative means of contacting you (phone and fax are usual).
- Keep your signature short. 4 to 6 lines is a handy guideline. Long signatures & signature with graphics waste bandwidth, storage space and can be annoying.
- If you include a quote in your signature file:
- Definitions of "offensive" vary widely, but try to avoid quotes which might offend people on the grounds of religion, politics or sexuality.
- Quotations or "tag lines" are usually best if they're amusing, a one liner that brings a smile can make someone's day.
- Don't extract and use text from someone else's message without acknowledgment.
- Don't make changes to someone else's message and forward it without making it clear where you have made the changes.
- Don't broadcast email messages unnecessarily - In particular, do not send or forward chain email: it offends some people, wastes network resources and chain letters that involve money or valuable items and promise big returns are illegal. If you start one or send one on, you are breaking the law.
- Laws relating to written communication apply equally to email messages, including the laws relating to defamation, copyright, obscenity, fraudulent misrepresentation, freedom of information, and wrongful discrimination.