Email Etiquette

Correctly targeting your messages a. Only send the message to those who need to see it. Do not copy people unnecessarily and only use a distribution list when everyone on the list needs to read the message.

b. Use the Reply to All option sparingly and only if you really think everyone on the list needs to see your response. This is particularly important when replying to distribution list messages, or to messages sent to many recipients. Make sure you really want to reply to the whole list.

c. Use the correct distribution list to target who you send messages to. If you are unsure who is included in a list ask the IT department to tell you. If you require a specifically targeted distribution list ask the IT department to set one up for you. They will give you the responsibility of maintaining the list.

d. Are there groups of staff that you want to target that are not included on the list or people that need to see the message that do not have access to email? If so, you must find alternative ways to reach these people.

e. Are your colleagues and managers aware of messages you have sent that include information that concerns them? If they are likely to be asked for their opinion or to respond in your absence then they need to be aware of what has been said previously and should be copied in the message.

f. Only use BCC (Blind copy) and CC if the recipient knows what action is expected of them. Be aware that if you use Reply to All to a message you received as a BCC recipient then everyone on the To and CC list will receive your response but not people on the BCC list.

Before sending a message

a. Always read the message before you send it.

b. Always use the spell checker before sending a message especially if it is addressed to recipients outside ILRI/ICRAF.

c. Don't reply to an email message when angry as you may regret it later. Once the message has been sent, you will not usually be able to recover it.

d. Always reply swiftly to any message that requires a response.

Are your attachments necessary?

a. Don’t attach unnecessary files or incorporate unnecessary information in a message. It’s much better to include a link to a location (public folder or Intranet) where the document is stored in one place than to send it as an attachment. By sending large attachments you can annoy people and sometimes block email systems for hours. There are still several ILRI staff using slow dial-up connections and staff who have good office connections but rely on dial-up connections when traveling. In some countries it costs $45 per hour to connect using the Travelers Access System (TAS). Not only is it expensive but large attachments also take a long time to download often delaying receipt of more urgent messages. Before sending an attachment think about the location of staff who will be receiving the message.

b. Make sure that the recipient will be able to read the attachment. In the message tell people the name of the software that was used to create the file.

c. If you have to send an attachment and you know it will be read over a slow link or if it is over 200K, compress it first. But make sure that the recipient has the software and instructions on how to uncompress it at the other end.

d. Don’t copy a message or attachment without permission.

Using Outlook options

a. Use the Out of Office option when you are unable to

b. Do use the importance and sensitivity options to help people decide how they should treat a message before they open it. However, do not overuse the high priority option as you might find that your really important messages are being ignored.

c. Do not request delivery and read receipts. This will almost always annoy the recipient before he or she has even read the message. Besides, it often does not work since the recipient could have blocked that function, or his/her software might not support it. If you want to know whether an email was received it is better to ask the recipient to let you know if it was received.

d. Do not ask to recall a message. The likelihood is that the message will have already been read or the recipients’ software does not support this function. It is better just to send an email to say that you have made a mistake. This will look much more honest than trying to recall a message.

e. Delegate permission for assistants to access specific parts of your mailbox, do not give out your password.

f. Give send on behalf of permissions to assistants, the message will be received from you but inside the message it will indicate that the message was sent on your behalf. Do not give out your password for people to send mail for you.

g. Use Rules to prioritize messages received, you can also use rules to assign categories or file messages to a folder automatically. However, if you travel frequently processing rules will slow down synchronising your mailbox.

h. Use the Outlook filter to move junk mail to a folder automatically. Its best not to delete immediately in-case “real” mail is filtered by mistake.

i. Set the default address book view to your campus site, add any other CG sites that you send mail to regularly to the search list.

j. Delete and file messages regularly keeping the Inbox as clear as possible. Use the “Empty Deleted items folder” option to completely delete messages. The Email server’s hard disk is not unlimited, and you’ll soon reach your quota limit if you don’t delete mail and large attachments regularly.

Thank you very much for your feedback. Feel free to comment on this and/or any other tip previously sent.

For any assistance with the above please contact the respective ICT Helpdesks as follows:

ILRI Kenya : or ext 3253

ICRAF: or ext 4207

ILRI Addis: or ext 2180

For any comments, a topic that you’d like us to feature or an ICT question you’d like addressed through this forum, send an email to or simply reply to this email.