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The hints and tips on this page cover good practice for when we send & receive emails and communicate when using instant messages tools such as Microsoft Teams.

We all need to use emails and instant messaging in ways that help us to communicate. This is important reading for all students and staff.


Note: Staff should also read the Email Etiquette document on StaffHub which outlines our responsibilities with regard to GDPR.

  • Email Etiquette

    Always remember that email is a communication tool, not a filing system

    * It can be copied and forwarded by anyone it is sent to.

    * This includes attachments, so only include them where necessary. Far better to email a link to the file in your OneDrive using appropriate security settings.

    Be aware of data protection issues when copying or forwarding emails

    * Ask yourself if you need to include everyone. Are you asking them to take action, or just giving them a record of action you’ve taken? Only expect an action from people in the To field, not Cc'ed.

    * Double check the information within the email chain. There could be personal or private information held right at the bottom. Delete it, or start a new email if there is information you should not be sharing.

    * If you are emailing multiple recipients and including external, personal or private email addresses, consider using the blind copy function. This means that the recipients don’t see everyone else’s personal data, nor their responses, even if someone inadvertently replies to all.

    * If you are sending personal or sensitive information, via email, you need to take extra care as email is transmitted over the internet in clear text, so it could be read by a third party or your email could be shared by the intended recipient.

    Ask yourself ‘what do I want my email to achieve?’

    * It should have a clear message – need-to-know information, or a clear call to action. Lots of different subjects require separate emails, or even better a phone call, Skype or face to face meeting.

    * Don’t expect an instant response. If it’s urgent you need to phone, Skype or visit in person.

    How might your email be received?

    *Make sure that the subject line is concise and makes sense to the reader. Good subject lines help us to manage our Inboxes.

    * Before you press send, check that your message is clear, spelling and grammar are correct and tone is appropriate. Email is not great with emotion or humour so avoid sarcasm or innuendo. And don’t send an email when you’re angry. Save it as a draft for later.

    * DON’T USE CAPITAL LETTERS - PEOPLE WILL THINK YOU ARE SHOUTING! And keep exclamation marks to a minimum too!!!

    * If you send emails out of normal office hours, then do not expect a response until at least the next working day.

    * Only flag a message as urgent or of high importance if it really is.

    Important: Emails should never be abusive or defamatory. 

    When replying to an email…

    * Only use ‘reply all’ if everyone on the list needs to see your response. Using ‘reply all’ clogs up everyone’s inbox.

    * If your response is long or complex, why not reply by phone or Skype meeting?

    * If you start a new conversation, start a new email. Don't just add to an existing email thread.

    Checking your inbox

    * When emails negatively affect your day-to-day work, try checking them only at set times of the day. If it’s urgent, the sender can always contact you by phone or Skype.

    * Warn people if you will not be able to respond to their emails in a reasonable time. Add an out of office message to say when you think you will be back (holiday, sickness, etc.).

    * If you’re upset or offended by an email, always give the sender the benefit of the doubt. Email gives no clues like facial expression or tone of voice, so can be easily misunderstood. Deal with the message the email contains, and save your emotional response for a face-to-face meeting.


    By following these suggestions, you can contribute to a more efficient and better way of working for yourself, students and staff.

  • Messaging Etiquette

    Instant messaging is conversational, both as text and voice chat. The social conventions that apply when you’re talking face-to-face generally apply to messaging too.

    This is important reading for all students and staff before you begin using instant messaging, such as Skype for Business. It explains the etiquette of using such an instant, yet remote, form of contact.

    Messaging with others

    Less intrusive than a phone call and quicker than email, instant messaging is rapidly increasing in the enterprise. Here are some tips and guidelines to help you make better decisions faster when you message: Instant Messaging

    1. Messaging is conversational, just like a face-to- discussion.

    • Don’t worry about strictly taking turns.
    • It doesn’t matter if every line is perfectly spelled and totally grammatical. This artificially slows the conversation down.

    2. If you start a conversation, state the topic at the start of the first message.

    • Your first message should state the topic and ask the other person if they have time to instant message with you.
    • For example, ‘Got a moment to discuss today’s meeting?’
    • However, you don’t need to do this if you work with the person frequently and you’re asking a quick question, such as ‘Are you joining us for the meeting?’

    3. Don’t take offense if your contact doesn't respond immediately.

    • They may not be able to answer straightaway, even if they are online. Assume they will respond when they're free.
    • Avoid messaging someone repeatedly when they don’t respond.

    4. Terse responses are perfectly fine.

    • You might receive a terse response, such as ‘in meeting -talk later’.
    • This would be considered a rude response in a personal conversation. But it’s a quick, common and perfectly acceptable way for a contact to let you know they're unavailable right now.

    5. Using emoticons can give your messages context.

    • Emoticons are usually graphical representations of facial expressions. They can be useful because they give your message context and make it feel like a more natural form of communication.

    6. Avoid having too many ‘goodbyes’

    • The first person to indicate an end to the conversation is usually enough.

    7. Avoid messaging a contact with a ‘busy’ status.

    • If a contact has set their status to ‘busy’, don’t send them a message unless it’s urgent.


    • As with email, it’s the equivalent of shouting.

    9. Ask others in the conversation before you invite someone to join.

    • If you are taking part in a multiparty messaging session, ask everyone before you invite another person to join in.

    Managing your instant messaging status

    Want to focus on high priority tasks? Set your status to ‘Busy’. Your contacts can see that they should only message you if it is urgent.

    Absolutely do not want to be disturbed? Set your status to ‘Do Not Disturb’.

    Retaining instant messages

    Instant messaging is an informal means of communication. It’s not designed for communications that we should retain for future reference. For this reason, any messages you send through Skype for Business are automatically deleted after you close the conversation window. It is possible to record a conversation and all participants will see that the recording is taking place.

    Did someone remove you from their Contact List?

    • Don’t be offended. It just means that they are trying to trim their list to those with whom they communicate regularly.
    • Expect your Contact List to be dynamic. You’ll need to add and delete contacts from time to time, as you start new projects and complete current ones.

    Now you’re ready

    Of course, the quickest way to become comfortable with instant messaging is to use it and see how effective it can make you in connecting with others, sharing ideas and information and generating better business results or productivity.


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