The Information Technology and Communications Division (ITCD) is conducting an e-mail etiquette campaign to make e-mail more efficient and effective, and to minimize e-mail issues to ensure everyone has a positive e-mail experience.
A different topic will be displayed every 2 weeks in the East and West elevator lobbies starting on July 25. You may also view below our top 12 ways to identify if you are practicing proper e-mail etiquette:
||Proper E-mail Etiquette
Meaningful Subject Lines
- Write a brief but meaningful subject line
- Readers often scan the subject line of an e-mail message to decide whether to open, forward, file, or delete it. Helping your reader decide benefits you.
- Use first word(s) to indicate message content:
- ACTION: Performance Plans Due Friday
- EVENT: All Hands Meeting - Tuesday, 3/18 @ 2:00
- INFO: New Employee Directory Available
- FOR REVIEW: Time card updates are due …
- APPROVED: IT Tactical Plan
- UPDATED ACTION: Action xx.x due date slipped to xx/xx/xx
- Avoid using subject field to convey entire message
About the "To:", "From:", "Cc:", and "Bcc:" Lines
- To: The person who needs to take action
- Cc: For information only - no action required
- Bcc: Blind Carbon Copy
More about Bcc:
- If you are sending an e-mail to a large audience, and it is not necessary for everyone to see who got the e-mail, enter the e-mail addresses in the Bcc: line.
- People who "Reply All" from the Bcc: line will only send back to the originator and to those in the cc: line – NOT the Bcc: line.
- Make sure when using Bcc: that your intentions are proper.
NOTE: Use "Reply All" with caution. If you do click Reply All, remove e-mail addresses that do not need to see your reply.
Managing Distribution Lists
- Review the distribution lists you own/maintain and remove names when personnel changes take place.
- Take action on bounce back notifications to ensure your distribution list is always current
- When creating new distribution lists, choose the type of list that best fits your needs:
- A Personal Distribution List resides on your computer and only you can use it.
- A Global Distribution List resides on the server and anyone can use it (based on parameters set up by the owner)
More about Distribution Lists.
The K.I.S. Approach
- Provide sufficient information in the body of your e-mail but "Keep It Simple." Do not make an e-mail longer than it needs to be.
- Add a link to an online document or Web page for those needing details.
- Use short paragraphs and blank lines between each paragraph. When making points, use numbers, lists, or bullets.
Signature File: The Do's and Don'ts
- E-mail signatures should be:
- Aligned to the left of the signature box
- Simple and easy to read
- Four to six lines of text (as a good rule of thumb)
- Your e-mail signature should include:
- Your name and title
- Your organization name
- Telephone numbers (desktop phone and/or government issued cell phone and/or fax number)
- E-mail Address
- Do not attach pictures or animated graphics to your signature. These take up space on your recipients' computers and on the e-mail servers.
- Do not use a mixture of different fonts, sizes or colors. If you want to add some artistic flair, stick with two fonts in the same family (i.e., "Arial Narrow" and "Arial Bold") or use two different font colors that are in the same color scheme.
- Do not add a "tag line" or "quote" that may be perceived as unprofessional.
Think Before You Attach
- Avoid sending attachments when possible. These take up a large portion of your e-mail storage (Sent Items) and also impact your recipient's e-mail storage.
- If you must send attachments, remember documents should not be over the 20 megabyte limit!
- Alternatives to sending attachments through e-mail are:
What Takes Up a Large Portion Of E-mail Storage?
- Pictures or animated graphics in your signature take up space on your recipients' computers and on the e-mail servers.
- Themes or Stationery (colorful backgrounds in your e-mails) are actually images and take up a lot of your allotted storage space and impacts your recipients' storage limits as well.
- Large attachments of 20 megabytes or more.
Use Encryption When Appropriate
- Unencrypted e-mail does not protect message confidentiality. It is the equivalent of sending a post card through regular postal mail where anyone can read it if they chose to.
- Sensitive information should never be included in an e-mail's subject line as this field is transmitted unencrypted even when the message itself is encrypted
Entrust Public Key Infrastructure (PKI). Accessible to NASA only.
Before Sending an E-mail Message
- Use Spell Check
- But don't rely entirely on the spell checker. If you use the wrong spelling for a particular use of a word (i.e., two vs. to vs. too), the spell checker won't pick it up.
- Proofreading Techniques
- Read your e-mail out loud, save it as a draft and read it again later, or have a co-worker read it.
- "Think before you send" techniques
- Read your e-mail out loud to ensure the tone is that which you desire. Avoid relying on formatting for emphasis; choose the words that reflect your meaning instead.
- If your e-mail is emotionally charged, walk away from the computer and wait to reply.
- Write clear concise messages to avoid confusion.
- Make sure your message is 508 compliant
- All e-mail messages (internal or external) and attachments, graphics, audio and/or video must be accessible to recipients with disabilities.
- NASA Section 508 guidelines.
Prevent the "Reply All" Storm
- Use "Reply to All" only if you really need your message to be seen by each person who received the original message.
- Replying "all" to a distribution list could impact many people unknowingly and unnecessarily.
Avoid using "reply all" to tell someone not to do a "reply all."
- Use discretion when forwarding e-mails. Check before forwarding person-to-person e-mails.
- Respond to e-mails promptly, even if your reply is, "Sorry, I'm too busy right now. But I will try to respond by…"
- Don't overuse the High Importance setting. What is important to you may not be important to your reader.
If your e-mail has a due date, use "Flags" or if you need to send it at a specific time, use "Delayed Send." Click the Help button to find out more information about using Flags or Delayed Send.
Appropriate Use of E-mail
- NASA employees and contractors are permitted limited personal use of government resources providing it does not interfere with official business and involves only minimal additional expense to the government.
- Employees are expected to conduct themselves professionally in the workplace and to refrain from engaging in activities that are inappropriate (i.e., the creation or retransmission of chain letters or other unauthorized mass mailings).
Appropriate Use of IT Resources Policy (PDF 750KB)