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Communicating Online: appropriate use of email

Take care when using email - think about whether it is appropriate to use email for your communication.

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Inappropriate…

Email is not suitable for every purpose. You will need to use your personal judgement as to whether your communication is suitable for email, but generally the following are not suitable for communication via email:

  • Staffing issues which include personal details (e.g. performance, discipline, salaries etc.);
  • Information relating to the content of examination papers;
  • Student examination or assessment marks prior to publication;
  • Content where there might be a contractual or other legal need to prove the identity of the sender, or to demonstrate the receipt of the message;
  • Student assignments which do not relate directly to email skills, and any material forming part of a student's formal assessment.

Consideration for the email recipient

You should not cause offence to others by your use of Cardiff University's email system. Some forms of offence are serious enough to be subject to legal sanctions or covered by Cardiff University's Regulations.

The following guidelines offer advice on avoiding some of the most common ways of inadvertently causing offence or annoyance.

  • Never give bad personal news by email;
  • Take care that the tone of your messages is clear - irony and humour, for example, may not be clear to your recipient unless it is someone who knows you well;
  • Ensure the tone of your message is respectful to recipients regardless of their role and status;
  • Remember: unlike other forms of communication there are no other clues to the contents delivered to the reader before they open it – the first sentence can cause serious impact;
  • Re-read your email before sending it and put yourself in the place of the recipient and ask yourself:  "is that really what I would have said if I'd been meeting with the recipient face-to-face?"
  • Take particular care with remarks that are or might appear to be critical of the recipient or another person - these can often come across as much stronger than you intended, and might, in some instances, be considered defamatory;
  • Put your name at the foot of the message to avoid any misunderstanding about who has sent your message as not all email systems transmit the sender's real name.
  • Before forwarding a message, it is often sensible to check that the originator of a message is happy for it to be circulated before you pass it on to a third party – it could cause serious offence or embarrassment if you pass a message on against the wishes of the originator and may also be an infringement of their copyright. It is advisable to state it explicitly if you yourself do not wish a particular message of yours to be forwarded to others.
  • Only use a mailing list for the purpose for which it was created. Create your own personal groups in your email Address Book for your need, rather than using a public list for your purposes;
  • Avoid the blasting of information to people via email lists; considered choice of who should receive messages and the proper and correct use of TO: and CC: fields will be much appreciated by recipients.

Consideration for the email system

Every email message uses system resources: please do not waste these resources. While the drain on the system of an individual unnecessary mail message may be slight, the cumulative effect of such messages sent by several thousand users can seriously degrade the system performance and inconvenience all users.

  • Do not send unnecessary copies of messages;
  • When replying to a message that has been sent to a number of recipients, reply only to the sender rather than to all recipients;
  • If you've been CC'd into a message, reply to the sender if you have a comment to make on the subject but avoid replying to all recipients of the original message;
  • When replying to a message, do not quote the whole of the original message unless there is some need to. This is particularly important when the original message itself includes previous correspondence;
  • Use a signature to identify yourself and give your contact details but do not include a large signature in every message you send - four to six lines should be enough;
  • Delete any messages you have saved but which are no longer needed as they take up storage space and will also be backed up;
  • Remove unwanted sent messages on a regular basis. Please note: you cannot archive to removable media – the archived messages will become unreadable;
  • If you subscribe to mailing lists, ensure that you know how to suspend the receipt of messages from them, and remember to do this if you are not going be reading your email for more than about two weeks;
  • Do not forward virus warnings to others - any virus warning you receive from outside Cardiff University is almost certain to be a hoax.