Electronic Mail Usage

This policy has been developed to highlight to staff good practice which should be adopted when using the University email system for whatever purpose. It is also to be noted that the misuse or excessive use or abuse of the email system will be dealt with in accordance with the relevant disciplinary procedures.

To be permitted to use any of the University computing facilities, users are deemed to have read and be bound by this policy and the following policies.

Quality of communication

  • As much thought should be applied to email and other media as any other form of communication, with particular consideration being given to the possibility of misinterpretation by the recipient.
  • The people to whom an email is copied should only be those who genuinely need to read the email, as otherwise it contributes to potential breach of confidence as well as system congestion.
  • Humour, sarcasm and irony in email without voice inflections and body language present in face-to-face communication can easily be interpreted quite differently from that which may have been originally intended.
  • The temptation to send a reply when angry or upset should be avoided until time has been given to reflect upon it in a calm manner.
  • Capital letters should not be used inappropriately as it could be interpreted as the equivalent of shouting at someone.
  • Abrupt or inappropriate use of language could be perceived as bullying by the recipient, or could cause offence to others, possibly even being considered harassment.
  • Defamation of colleagues or other parties whether deliberately or inadvertently can occur in emails and is easily avoided by never posting personal information about yourself or others.
  • Criticism in written form can often be more difficult to receive, especially when other people are copied in.
  • Unnecessarily wide circulation/distribution of email to those who have no real need for it may be a cause of distress to the recipient or the person named in an email, and can cause information overload which can lead to stress as staff try to keep up with the number of emails received.


  • Email may not be the appropriate medium for dealing with confidential information.
  • If a matter is particularly complex or confidential consider whether a phone call or meeting would be the best means to communicate.
  • Remember emails are not a secure method of communication. They might be compared with postcards which can be read along the chain of distribution: they can easily be forwarded, wrongly addressed or intercepted.
  • If sending emails of a confidential nature remember to stipulate this clearly, this can be done in the options (personal), subject line and/or in the body of the email.
  • When sending attachments that contain sensitive data use password protection.
  • Staff should use their University of Nottingham accounts for all emails containing personal information about students or colleagues to ensure personal data is protected in line with the University’s legal obligations under the Data Protection Act.
  • Staff should use their University of Nottingham accounts for all emails discussing University business or where they are acting in their capacity as employees of the University of Nottingham.
  • For all emails sent external to the University an email disclaimer should be at the end of the email.
  • Emails sent by members of staff must not disclose information confidential to the University or bring the University into disrepute.
  • Staff should note that any email from a University of Nottingham account could be subject to a request under the Data Protection Act or Freedom of Information legislation.

How to Deal with Inappropriate Emails

  • Staff in receipt of an email that causes offence or concern should check, where they feel comfortable doing so, with the sender whether the message was misunderstood, preferably face to face or over the phone rather than via further email exchanges.
  • Staff should not feel they have to respond personally to inappropriate emails, (such as an email felt to have a bullying tone or one that seems personally insulting). If you feel an email is inappropriate refer the matter to the line manager or supervisor, for advice and, if necessary, further action.

Personal Use of Email

The University email account is provided for the use of staff in connection with the performance of their contractual duties. However, it does permit the incidental use of the email system for personal use. Personal use is a privilege and not a right and is dependent upon not being abused or overused. The University reserves the right to withdraw permission for personal use or amend the scope of personal use at any time.

Good Email Management

  • Check email regularly, deleting unwanted messages immediately. Delete those messages that are no longer valid, relevant or useful.
  • Try to manage email rather than employing management by email. It is good practice to acknowledge emails and agree deadlines but there is no need for immediate responses that match the speed of transmission. Email should not necessarily overtake written priorities or phone calls.
  • Reply in a timely manner in the same way as if receiving a formal letter.
  • Clear out the mailbox regularly, filing and archiving logically, as this will prevent the mailbox getting full, preventing new mail arriving and allowing easier retrieval of relevant emails when requested.
  • If using Microsoft Outlook (on the Exchange system) and you will be out of the office and unable to access email, activate the “out of office assistant”.
  • In order to ensure timely response to email messages whilst you are absent from work (for instance during annual leave and periods of absence) consider setting up proxy access (termed delegation in Outlook) or have a shared email account to allow others within the team to deal with matters on your behalf.
  • Use your signature, detailing your full contact details and address as standard.
  • Check your reply settings or who you are forwarding to, ensuring you are emailing the right person or people, especially when discussing confidential information - it is easy to use reply to all by mistake.
  • Check destination addresses carefully, especially when using a look up directory where people with the same surname are grouped together.
  • Be wary about opening attachments from unknown sources and always virus check attachments.
  • Share knowledge-email can be a great means of keeping others in the loop and team building but try not to overload people with too many emails.
  • The University’s My Spam service filters email, phishing, and viruses. However, staff should not knowingly send, forward or otherwise distribute mail which would come under these categories
  • Cancel subscriptions to any mailing lists not regularly read.
  • Try not to print out emails unless absolutely necessary.
  • Information should not be stored on email indefinitely. Staff should follow the good practice guidance on email management and transfer emails to other appropriate storage systems.

If you work part-time:

  • Consider whether you should activate the out of office assistant on non-working days/hours if this is helpful to your expected points of contact.
  • Alter your signature to stipulate the work pattern so people know what days and times you will be available to contact.

Composing Emails

  • Be clear, brief and logical in composing and replying to emails.
  • Always try to use descriptive titles in the subject line for emails.
  • Change the subject line, if replying on another topic to someone who emailed you.
  • Try to stick to one topic per message where possible.
  • Remember the human aspects of email using greetings as you would in person.
  • Be aware your email can be read by others who you may not have sent it to originally - re-read your email to ensure you feel it is professional.
  • Try not to send unnecessarily large attachments where shared folders or Intranet Portal can be used more effectively.

Redirecting Email

  • If a member of staff is not the appropriate person to respond to an email, then electronically forward the email to the correct recipient along with an explanatory note of what you have done/or why it has been forwarded. You should consider sending a “CC” to the originator of the email enquiry to keep them informed of the action that has been taken.
  • If your email does not reach the right destination, apologise to the group or person who wrongly received it.
  • If you receive an email in error return it to the sender of the message with a polite reply. If the email contains confidential information it should not be disclosed or used in any way.

Human Resources Department
July 2010

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Last edited Jan 02, 2018