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Common Courtesies



  • Read your email regularly. Ignoring a message is discourteous and confusing to the sender. Always reply, even if a brief acknowledgement is all you can manage. This will avoid doubt in the mind of the reader that you have received the message.
  • Reply promptly and put your reply at the top of the message.
  • Be tolerant of others’ mistakes. Some people may not be good typists, or they may accidentally delete your message and ask you to resend it.
  • Attribute quotes from any source other than yourself, just as you would in any published work.
  • Keep your signature brief (4-5 lines maximum) and informative (include a telephone number).
  • Use humor, sarcasm and irony sparingly; they may not be understood by all readers because email lacks communication clues such as facial expression and body language.


  • Don’t make changes to someone else’s email and pass it on without making it clear that you have made changes.
  • Don’t send an email when you are angry or upset.
  • Don’t say anything about a third party that you would not say directly to that person. Defamation by email carries the same consequences as by any other medium.
  • Don’t assume that your email has been read.
  • Don’t label every message as a high priority.
  • Don’t send or forward chain letters.

Reprinted with permission from Queensland University of Technology.