University of Malta

Email Netiquette
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In recent years, members of staff and students have become increasingly dependent on email communication to help them with their teaching, study, research, administration and any other work that is academically related.

As with other forms of communication media, there are widely observed conventions, often known as ‘network etiquette’ or ‘netiquette’, associated with email communication. Netiquette is a set of guidelines intended to promote effective, efficient and responsible communication between all email users.

What follows is a set of guidelines derived from those in use at many locations on the Internet, and which IT Services strongly recommends for all email users at the University of Malta.

Daily Routines & Housekeeping

  • You are responsible for the content and maintenance of your mailbox. Check your mailbox regularly.
  • Develop an orderly filing system for email messages.
  • Always reply, even if a brief acknowledgement is all you can manage. Ignoring a mail message is discourteous and confusing to the sender. Never assume that simply because you have sent a message, it has been read.
  • Never assume that only you and your recipient can read your email message. Treat the security of email messages about the same as a message on a postcard. Sensitive messages should be delivered by hand or sent by snail mail.
  • All file attachments (executable, MS Word, MS Excel files) should be saved to a disk and then scanned for viruses before opening them. If in doubt contact the sender before opening suspicious attached files.
  • Set up the Auto-Reply facility if you are going to be away from your computer for a few days. Your senders will know that you are unable to read their mail. You can create custom, automatic message responses at: Email Autoreply

Subject Lines

  • Use short meaningful descriptions in the subject field of all your messages. Messages without subject lines can confuse and frustrate your recipients particularly if these receive a lot of mail.
  • Restrict yourself to one subject per message, sending multiple messages if you have multiple subjects. This helps recipients manage the messages they receive by subject.


  • The way you start your message is very much dependent on your relationship between you and your recipient. If you normally address a person as Ms/Mr/Dr Borg then that’s the way you should address her/him in email. If you normally call them by name then address them by name. If you are unsure, stick to the formal salutation.

Body Text

  • Messages should be concise and to the point. Use short paragraphs with breaks in between. White space makes long text easier to read.
  • Be careful about the way you express yourself in a message, especially if you feel strongly about an issue. Never shoot off a quick response to some issue. Once you press the send button there is no way you can retrieve the message.


  • Never type your messages in all uppercase letters. Capitalizing whole words that are not titles is the equivalent of shouting. Asterisks are usually used to add *emphasis* to a word.
  • Use plain text for your messages. Some email programs are unable to handle formatted messages - different fonts, sizes, colours, tabs etc.
  • When sending a URL in the body of a message, type it on its own line like this:
  • Most email client programs can recognize the URL and will automatically render the text as an active link in the body of your message.
  • Different regions of the world use different formats for listing dates: DD-MM-YY or MM-DD-YY. To avoid misinterpretation of dates, include spelled out months when listing dates – 30 May or May 30.
  • Acronyms (e.g. ASAP – as soon as possible) are often used in email messages. Avoid overuse of acronyms in your messages. Such messages can confuse and annoy readers that are not familiar with acronyms.
  • Ensure that your message is free of spelling and grammatical errors before pressing the ‘send’ button.

Signature Files

  • Always include your name at the bottom of your message.

    You may wish to include your signature at the bottom of your message when communicating with people who may not know you personally. Your signature file may include:

Name & Surname
  • It is important to update the signature file whenever a piece of your contact information changes.
  • Instructions for setting up email signature are available.

Attached Files

  • Be careful with file attachments that you send along with your mail. Compression utility programs (available from the IT Services Software page) can be used to reduce the sizes of your attached files.


  • Do not start a new message when replying to a mail. The ‘reply’ feature makes it easier to follow the string of responses to a single message.
  • When replying to a mail, ensure that the subject field (usually automatically filled when you use the ‘reply’ feature) still accurately reflects the content of your message.
  • When you send a reply to an email, the original message is usually quoted in the body of your reply. Quotes help you and your recipient manage your email communication. However, avoid the practice of quoting entire messages particularly if these are long.

Forwarding & Spam

  • It is unethical to forward a message without asking permission from the originator of the message.
  • Do not make changes to someone else's message and pass it on without making it clear where you have made the changes. This would be misrepresentation.
  • Do not initiate or forward chain letters and other unwanted email, known as ‘spam’, to any other users. This kind of mail causes various problems, including delays in the transmission of genuine academically related email.
  • Sending virus warnings, whether genuine or not, to all contacts in your address book is one example of chain mail. Do not initiate or forward such warnings. Virus warnings should be forwarded to IT Services. If appropriate, IT Services will issue warnings to all users.
  • Use the BCC - Blind Carbon Copy - function when sending a message to a large group of contacts especially if the recipients of your mail do not know each other. For example, if you are going to advise all your contacts about a change in your email address or telephone number, type your email address in the To: field and include all recipients' email addresses in the BCC field. This will not reveal the email addresses of the mail recipients.

Remember that...

  • The forging of email by interfering with the headers of the original message or by arranging for erroneous information to appear there (in particular to disguise the true sender or to masquerade as another user) is explicitly forbidden both in the context of actual mail activities and at other times when an email address may be quoted.
  • Use of the IT facilities and the campus network is restricted to academic related purposes.
  • Sending email from your University email address is similar to sending a letter on a University of Malta letterhead, so don't say anything that might discredit or bring disrepute to the University.

Last Updated: 4 November 2014

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