Email Best Practices

Help your correspondants

Keep contents short

  • Many people now are using Smartphones, which have limited screen area for viewing messages.
  • Also, many people don't have a lot of time available for reading, or don't like to read. If you don't write what's essential in the first sentence or two, they won't see it.

Whenever possible, type your reply above any quoted message

  • Makes it immediately visible without scrolling.
  • Sometimes reponding in-line with the quoted message is necessary when many points have to be covered. If that's the case, state that's what you're doing.

Provide meaningful Subject lines

  • More likely to get an immediate response
  • Simplifies locating messages later


  • it's the equivalent of shouting and can be quite annoying.

Don't use an image as a signature

  • Causes maibox bloat both for you and your correspondent.

Avoid large attachments

  • Whenever possible, provide a link to a document on a Web server.
  • Many large attachments quickly add up -- eating up both your mail quota and that of the recipient.

Help Yourself

Minimize the volume of your stored email

Despite their convenience, Email servers, and Exchange in particular, are not designed to be efficient file storage systems.

  • Improves mail server response
  • Eases the finding of messages

Use folders to organize messages

  • Eases the finding of messages
  • Use a meaningful folder name, not a short, cryptic one

Delete unnecessary messages immediately; extract and delete large attachments.

  • Cornell's 7GB limit can't be expanded.
  • Don't procrastinate
    • If you put it off until your mailbox fills up, you'll spending many hours cleaning up your mailbox.
    • The sender will receive an error message if your mailbox is full, and will have to manually send the message again. As a result, you might not receive important messages in a timely fashion. If your correspondents don't resend them, you won't receive them at all.

Password protection

  • Don't share your NetID's password with anyone. In addition to your email, it provides access to your HR information.
  • Don't use the same password for non-Cornell services, so if one is compromised it doesn't jeopardize another.
  • Don't type it on public, non-Cornell computers. Keybord capture malware is much too common.

3rd-Party services (gmail, yahoo, etc)

Use 3rd party mail services for personal mail.

  • separate from work correspondence
  • reduces mailbox bloat

Don't use 3rd party mail services for Cornell business mail.

  • There usually is a lack of privacy, potentially exposing Cornell's business to inappropriate 4th parties.
    • e.g. Google scans email content in order to display topical advertisements.
  • There can be "legal discovery" issues.
    • When there is a workplace legal dispute, access to all work-related mail is required.
      • Lack of access can potentially result in a finding in favor of the complaintant.
      • The legal process for getting access to messages on 3rd party systems can be expensive and lengthy.


Topic revision: r3 - 07 Feb 2019, AdminDevinBougie
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