Email is fundamentally a form of communication; it is about communicating thoughts and ideas. If you are not getting your message across then it is not succeeding. Unfortunately, there are a lot of things that people commonly do that make email hard (or boring) to read and hamper communication. If you want to write effective email, this document contains some rules and guidelines which can help. Similarly, there are hints on receiving and reading email so that you and your computer do not get burnt.
At CSE, it is worth noting that we work on a multitude of different types of computer systems and there is a major problem in sending mail from one type of system to another type of system. Particularly, many people in the School do not use Microsoft products and sending them Excel spreadsheets or Word documents is generally not useful (except to annoy them). Similarly, Macintosh systems tend to send attachments encoded with "binhex" which are then unreadable on any non-Macintosh computer. Nevertheless, with just a little care email can be used for very effective communication.
How to read email; and write email that people will read
(also available in pdf, dvi, postscript and ascii text).
Other references worth exploring include:
- A very good Beginner's Guide to Effective Email by Kaitlin Sherwood is available at:
- An excellent article by Christopher Russo on dealing with difficult email (from the Usenix journal, ;login) is available at:
- RFC 1855 Netiquette Guidelines is available at:
- UNSW Australia's Email Policy is available at: