Inbound students Study Abroad and Exchange at the University of Melbourne

E-mail guidelines

This page is designed to explain some of the conventions that have grown up about using email in recent times. It has become clear to us that some students do not always understand how to 'behave' when using this form of communication. These are suggested as guidelines only and you will still need to judge the particular situation in which you find yourself as to how you write your email.

If any doubt, though, a general rule of thumb is to err on the side of formality. Being too formal is less likely to cause offence than being too casual.



The person or people to whom you address the email should be the person or people you want to respond to you or take action on something.



The letters cc stand for carbon copy which stems from the days when typewriters were used and photocopiers were not available. At that time, to make a copy of the letter you were typing you placed carbon paper between the page being typed and another page as it was fed through the typewriter. This meant the top page was copied as it was typed. This field should be used to copy in those people who need to be aware of the information in the email, but may not be directly involved and/or do not need to respond. It is for their information only.

For example:
You send an email to your Faculty Advisor asking to change your exchange study plan and place the name of a Melbourne Global Mobility exchange advisor in the cc field.

The Faculty Advisors know that the email is being directed to them and that they are expected to respond. The MGM advisors know that you have included them in this email for their information only and that they do not need to respond.

Stop and think

Always ask the question before including people in the To or CC boxes, do I really need to include these people? With so many emails being sent and received you do not want to make yourself unpopular by including unnecessary people in your correspondence.



This stands for blind carbon copy. The names that are placed in the bcc field will be invisible to anyone who receives your email. Secretly copying someone into an email without the recipients' knowledge is frowned upon. For this reason it is not commonly used.

Reasons why you might use the bcc field:

  • If you are sending an email to a large number of people, you may wish to keep ALL email addresses private. People receive a lot of spam email these days and it is a good idea to keep mailing lists hidden to avoid others using the addresses inappropriately.

If you wish unobtrusively to copy yourself into the email so that you receive it in your inbox and can then file or save it for future reference, then putting your email address in the bcc field is appropriate.



This field should never be left blank! You don't need to write an essay in this space, but put something that is meaningful to you and hopefully the receiver such as 'subject approvals for x University' or 'change of preference' will make it much easier to know what you want, to file your email and search for it at a later date.



You need to consider your audience when greeting someone in your email. If it is a more formal communication, or you are writing to someone with whom you are not familiar, you should begin your email 'Dear [name of person/people]'. Moreover if this is the first time you have contacted the person or they are not well known to you, it would be better to use their title, such as Dr/Professor/Ms and their family name to avoid being overly familiar as it can cause offence. Never begin this type of email with 'Hey'.

If you are on more familiar terms with the addressee(s) then it is acceptable to begin with Hi [name of person/people] and to use their given name.


Spelling and Grammar

Ther isnt really any exuse 4 incorrect speling or poor, grammar L Every1 has axcess 2 spellcheck & if ur writing an email about work or studdy then u shld take time to write it proply.

If you think that was annoying to read then imagine reading half a page of it! Make sure you check your text before sending. This is not only important because improper spelling, grammar and punctuation give a bad impression of you, it is also important for conveying the message properly. E-mails with no full stops or commas are difficult to read and can sometimes even change the meaning of the text.

Don't use 'text-talk' in an email unless you are writing to close friends or family and you don't care whether they read it or not.


Capital Letters

Don't use all capital letters (UPPERCASE). The reader will likely feel they are being shouted at. If you must use UPPERCASE, use it very sparingly and only to emphasise a particularly important point. If you are not sure about it, ask, if I were talking to the recipient face to face, would I be raising my voice to them? One way to add emphasis is to enclose the word/phrase with an asterisk, for example "It is *important* not to shout at people by using UPPERCASE".

Large sized fonts (greater than 12) are useful for people with vision impairment, but are not appropriate for general use.



Remember that an email does not carry the tone of voice which can change the sense of spoken communication. In your head, when you are writing the email, you may sound very reasonable but in the email without the tone of voice it can come across as demanding and aggressive. To lessen the effect of this it may be necessary to use language, which when spoken, can sound obsequious and uncertain.
For example: could you possibly tell me when I might hear about my acceptance document instead of when will I hear about my acceptance documents.


Signing Off

When you end an email, how you do it is also important, as in some parts of the world being too abrupt or informal can cause offence. For example in some languages they can be as elaborate as "Please accept, Madam, the expression of my best greetings". Here are some suggestions for your email in English:

  • In a more formal email use Yours sincerely when you know the name of your addressee and Yours faithfully when you've addressed it to "Dear Sir/Madam" or "To whom it may concern" for formal emails.
  • In correspondence where you are more familiar with the academic or administrative person at the institution use Best regards, Kind regards or even simply Regards.
  • Even when writing to people you know well, it's polite to sign off with something like "All the best," or "Take care," before typing your name.

Not having a sign off at all, not even your name, may cause the reader to think the email was sent incomplete or had been truncated by some glitch of technology.



The important thing that you need to remember about replying is to actually do it. If you have been asked a question or asked to acknowledge something then don't ignore it. If you are not sure of what is required, reply and ask for clarification or telephone and ask, if it is easy to do so.

When you do reply make sure you keep the text to which you are replying below your message so that the recipient can easily refer to previous email if necessary. In a longer conversation back and forth, keeping the previous messages below makes it easier to refer to what was said earlier.


Replying to all

If more than one person has been included in an email to you, think whether it is necessary to include all those people in replying. If you think it is, then click the "Reply All" button and every recipient will be included in the reply. You can edit out some addresses at that stage if necessary. To only reply to the sender, then only click "Reply".



Attachments should be clearly labelled and the file size kept to a minimum. Please make sure you are sending an attachment in a file format that most computers will be able to download. For example, .pdf, .doc, .xls, .jpeg are fairly standard.



Two more things that will make life easier with email:

  • Would it be easier to ring and ask questions over the telephone then confirm what was discussed, if necessary, by email to avoid the backwards and forwards that can occur with emails, especially about complicated topics?
  • Please don't send an email and then telephone shortly afterwards to see if your email arrived and essentially ask what you put in the email. That takes up the time of the recipient that could be used to answer your email.


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