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Tips for Managing E-mail

1. Use subject lines that are indicative of the content of your message. Clear and informative subject lines are also helpful when you or the recipient needs to find that message later. Not helpful: meeting minutes. Helpful: department meeting minutes, Jan. 12, 2012.

2. If you do elect to send confidential information, consider using "Confidential" in the subject line so that it is flagged for further review should you receive a public records request.

3. Keep personal use of work e-mail to a minimum. Use discretion when mixing personal and work-related messages. Remember, there is no expectation of privacy in work e-mail.

4. Take time to compose a thoughtful response before sending an e-mail. Proofread for spelling errors, grammar, and punctuation before sending a message.

5. Remember that the security of your e-mail cannot be ensured. When sensitive issues need to be discussed, consider that a face-to-face conversation or a telephone call may be a more secure communication choice than e-mail.

6. When composing and sending an e-mail, use discretion. People in receipt of messages cannot hear the tone and inflection in your voice. If it is something truly urgent or needs further discussion, consider using the telephone or setting a meeting.

7. Manage e-mail based on its content, not space quotas. Retain e-mail messages according to your agency's records retention guidelines.

8. Everyone receives e-mail that may pose personal or departmental risks. These types of e-mails, such as phishing messages, should be removed from the e-mail system as soon as possible and according to law.

9. Manage your e-mail as part of your day-to-day business practices. Be a proactive manager of your inbox and manage it in a way that is most effective for you while following your agency's policies.


This list is based on the Managing the Digital University Desktop E-mail Tutorial. "Managing the Digital Desktop" was a National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC) grant- funded project to study computer file management practices in academic units and administrative offices at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and Duke University. It ended in 2006.

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