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Composing Effective Emails

Sending an email from your account is similar to sending a letter on DCCCD letterhead. What you say and how you say it is a reflection on this institution. Additionally, your email can be redirected to a third party without your consent.

Following are some tips on how to ensure that you are creating a positive impression and communicating effectively:

1) Analyze the message to determine if email is the most effective delivery method.
Sometimes face-to-face communication, memos or Web pages might be more appropriate.

2) Create a brief but compelling subject line.
Most readers determine whether to read or delete your email by reading your subject line. If they don't immediately understand how your message will benefit them, they'll delete it. Consider prefacing your subject line with Urgent:, Action: or Info: to help recipients prioritize your message.

3) Use the correct field.

  • Use the To: field for people who are to act on your email.
  • Use the Copy: (cc) field for people who are receiving the message for information only.
  • Use Blind copy: (bc) when you want to protect the privacy of the members of an email list.  When sending copies to a proprietary list (e.g., DCCCD students), always use blind copy instead of copy. This ensures the recipients' privacy.


4) Create content that is easy to read and understand.
Restrict yourself to one subject per email. This helps recipients manage their email more easily.

  • Keep it short, but be sure that it is long enough to communicate effectively. Consider using the "Bite, snack or meal" approach developed by E-WRITE partners Marilynne Rudick and Leslie O'Flahavan (
  • Summarize the purpose of the email in the first sentence.
  • Include subheads and bullet points to break up the text and make it easier to read.
  • Be sure to identify links and attachments by including a lead-in sentence.
  • Do not use acronyms in a list name or in the subject line.
  • Identify acronyms on first reference on every page. Do not assume that people understand the acronym.
  • Spell check the email before sending it.

5) Reread your email before sending it.
Be sure to check for and correct spelling, grammar and punctuation errors and misused words. Additionally, if you are sending an email to a large group of people:

  • Have noninstructional messages edited and approved by the location Communications Management Committee before your send it.
  • Test your message by sending it to a small group before releasing it to the larger group.

6) When sending copies to a very large list (more than 1,000), consider sending the email out in groups of 500 or fewer.
Sending out too many emails at once can overload the system or cause your email message to be captured by SPAM filters before it can be delivered.

7) Avoid sending attachments with your mass email messages to external audiences.
If you must send and attachment:

  • Keep attachments small (less than 100KB)
  • Create them with either WordPad (Rich Text Format (.rtf)) or Adobe Acrobat (.PDFs). If you send a PDF, always include a link to the free Adobe Acrobat reader.
  • Sometimes the best solution is to provide readers with a link to a Web page with the same information.
  • Remember, your email recipients may not have the same word processing applications as you.

8) Do not use a fake reply address, even if the email is for informational purposes only.
Many recipients will not notice your disclaimer asking them not to reply. Then they'll be unhappy because they think you're ignoring them. Also, many servers will reject messages with a fake reply address, so your message won't be delivered.