Email Etiquette

The information on this page offers some suggestions on standard protocol for creating and managing email messages.

General Email Guidelines
Email messages sent via the Harvard Medical School email server are considered professional communication. You should:

  • Compose clear and concise messages
  • Respect confidentiality
  • Be polite

Composing Messages
Email, as written communication, sometimes lacks the other important aspects of personal interaction such as facial expression and tone of voice. It is important that your message text is clear and to the point. Some tips for clear communication:

  • Write as if you were speaking to someone, but don't write anything you wouldn't say directly to them.
  • Remember that once you send your message you have no control of who else may see its contents. Avoid sending sensitive or confidential information via email.
  • Avoid writing in all CAPITALS. In a written medium it looks like "shouting" and is difficult to read. To emphasize a single word, you can enclose it in _underscores_ or *asterisks*.
  • Spell check before sending the message.

Reread what you wrote after spell checking and before sending.

Responding to Messages

  • Don't "Respond to All" if you just need to communicate with the original sender.
  • Don't forward spam or chain letters.
  • Never forward anyone's email address without their knowledge.

Say thank you in response. Couldn't hurt.

Managing Messages in Your Inbox
Use the tips below to keep messages in your Inbox to a minimum.

  • If additional information or research isn't required, act on the message when it is
    received. Read it, forward it if necessary, print it or delete it.
  • Create folders and mailboxes to archive messages you want to keep and transfer them out
    of your Inbox.

Copyright 2014 by the President and Fellows of Harvard College.
Site Updated: 7/25/2014
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