A clear Inbox and accessible emails

Be part of the solution and change how you write and use email. If you adopt this advice, others will too! 

1. Short is polite, not rude

Please be brief! Wordy responses are scanned and key details are easily missed. Set a 5-sentence goal - can you write it in 5 sentences or less? Use our plain English guide: using a few simple tricks, your writing can be clearer, shorter and more engaging.

Don't use logos in your signature - they're attached as files and people waste time opening them in case they're important. That's not polite!

2. Check clarity and accuracy

  • Your subject line should clearly give the topic
  • Clear opening: explain the key message/reason for writing in your opening line (don't start with the background!)
  • Check spelling and accessibility: click the Review tab in Outlook

3. Make sure it's accessible

  • Write a clear subject line  (see point 2!)
  • Use headings for longer messages: make them proper headings by using the headings toolbar (don't create manual headings by making text bigger/bold etc)
  • Write meaningful link text, not "click here" or "read more". Give context: explain where the link is taking people within the link text
  • Include a text alternative to all essential images so that people using screen reader software can access it
  • Use sufficient colour contrast and a minimum font size 12
  • Make sure any attached files are accessible
  • Microsoft guide to accessible emails

4. Don't Reply all and minimise CCs

Don't use 'Reply all': choose individual recipients, and only copy someone in if it's essential that they see it.

5. Edit the thread

Check the email trail and cut what's not relevant. If it's long, summarise it or call/instant message the recipient instead.

6. Don't expect an instant response, or feel you should give one

Nobody should expect an immediate reply to email. If it's urgent, use Teams to call or send an instant message. Give yourself switch-off time too: book in half-days for email-free working. Set an 'auto-response' to say you're not checking, and then don't check (and never check in none-work time!).

Spread the word

Please link to this charter in your email footer to help us change the email culture. Mine says:

Your feedback is welcome!

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