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Etiquette

Most people have a standard way of communicating with colleagues, external contacts, business partners and so on. However, it can be the normal day to day email messages that cause the most problems:

Use your UCL email address
Missed Signals

Do not shout
Chain letters
Is it really urgent?
Top or bottom posting?

Check Receipt of Important Email

Use your UCL email address

UCL's Corporate Support Services and many academic departments use the all-staff and all-student email lists for the dissemination of essential information and official notices. It is important that you check your UCL email on a regular basis in order not to miss vital information.

It is also important to use your email address when contacting any of UCL's Corporate Support Services. Doing so saves time and frustration as many requests cannot be actioned if they come from external accounts such as Hotmail. This is because support staff have no way to verify that you are who you claim to be and due to regulations such as the Data Protection Act, may not be able to deal with your enquiry.

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Missed signals

Emails do not come with facial cues (expressions or gestures) that you would normally get in a face-to-face meeting, and there is no tone of voice to interpret, as you could over the telephone, things which traditionally help to make the message clearer.

For example, care should be exercised when using irony and humour. Such nuances can be difficult to express in a mail message and could easily be misunderstood.

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Do not shout

Avoid writing in capitals (UPPERCASE) and overdoing punctuation!!! It you write in capitals, IT SEEMS AS IF YOU ARE SHOUTING. This can be highly irritating and might spark an unwanted reply. If you must use uppercase lettering, it is best used sparingly and only to lay emphasis on a particularly important point.

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Chain letters

Do not forward virus hoaxes and chain letters. Even if the content seems genuine, often the senders are not. Since it is impossible to find out whether a chain letter is real or not, it is best to simply delete it.

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Is it really urgent?

It is best not to mark things as urgent if they really aren't, because then when you really do have a message that needs immediate attention, it may not be treated as urgently as it should.

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Top or bottom posting?

Posting style is all about where you start your reply to a message.

Top posting: refers to replying above the original email

Bottom posting: starting your reply below the original email.

There is no set rule as to which you should use. Everyone has their preferences and arguments for and against each style.

However the general rule of thumb is that if you are replying to a mailing list or newsgroup, many people prefer bottom posting as it's easier to read through articles etc from top to bottom.

On the other hand, top posting is the default for several popular email clients, and as such the preference for many, as top posting makes it 'easier' for people to find the latest response to a message. Otherwise readers may need to scroll for pages before they get to the last message. This is perhaps the biggest reason why some people are actually against bottom posting.

It is probably best to find out which style the majority of people in your department use and stick to that. Otherwise it can become quite confusing to have some top posting and others bottom posting in an email conversation!

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Check Receipt of Important Mail

As IS adopts increasingly aggressive anti-spam policies, some mail may not get to where it needs to i.e. coursework may get marked as spam & not delivered. Therefore for urgent/important messages its advisable to check that the recipient has your received it.

NB: We strongly discourage the use of read receipts as method checking if an email has been received. This can increase traffic on our email servers and therefore affect performance.