3 Rules for email practice

Rule 1
Rule 2
Rule 3

Rule 1: Subject Line – Use a consistent subject title in all related emails

This rule is to enable systematic collation of records and easy reference to prior correspondence via the conversation thread in Outlook.

1.1 Construct a title in the subject line that broadly reflects the content of the email.

1.2 Use the same title consistently for subsequent correspondence relating to this matter.

  • In the first email with a new subject title, enclose a line in the beginning of the email content to advise all correspondents to use the same subject title. This is to ensure that email recipients (particularly from external organizations) adhere to the practice. *When replying to this email, please do not change the subject title. This is to ensure proper records management*

1.3 Refrain from making any changes to the subject line, however minor unless

a. A new topic is started with substantive change of content.

  • In the first line of the email content at the first change of title, make reference to the previous subject title of the email enclosed in square brackets, e.g. [Related topic: previous email subject line]

b. There is a shift of discussion that is largely independent of the original topic though still related to it.

  • Append the original title with a sub heading after a dash, “-”

Explanation of rules

1.1 A consistent subject line which broadly summarises the content of the email will enable the system to easily group all conversations together, e.g.

a. Emails grouped by “Date (conversations)” [see Screen capture 1].

Emails grouped by “Date (conversations)”

Screen capture 1: Emails grouped by “Date (conversations)”

b. Emails grouped by “Subject” [see Screen capture 2].

Emails grouped by “Date (conversations)”

Screen capture 2: Emails grouped by “Subject”

1.2 Enclose a line in the beginning of each new email to advise all recipients to use the same subject line throughout the correspondence [see Screen capture 3].

Enclose a line to advise all recipients to use the same subject line

Screen capture 3: Enclose a line to advise all recipients to use the same subject line

1.3 Avoid changing the subject line, unless

a. A new topic is started with substantive change of content. Make reference to the previous subject title of the email in the beginning of the email [see Screen capture 4].

Make reference to previous subject title in a new email content

Screen capture 4: Make reference to previous subject title in a new email content

b. There is a shift of discussion from the original topic but still related to it. Use a dash to create sub heading [see Screen capture 5].

Use dash to create sub heading

Screen capture 5: Use dash to create sub heading

 

Rule 2: Email content – Retain previous emails in replies and ensure easy discovery of content

This rule is to provide correspondents with the proper context of the email discussion and to ensure that additional materials attached or embedded in the email content can be found and collated easily.

2.1 When replying to an email, include all content in the email. Do not delete the body of content in that email unless

a. In the opinion of the originator, if the email is too long, the correspondence can continue with previous content deleted and the email subject header appended with a running number, i.e. “Subject title – 1”. This will ensure that the sequence of email correspondence is maintained and previous content is easily found in the conversation thread.

2.2 Use “Reply all” so that all correspondents listed in the email are kept in the loop in all email correspondence. The recipient lists should only be changed if a recipient request for it and this should be evident in the email string of correspondence.

2.3 When including other materials in the email, follow the recommended practice below so that they can be easily searchable

a. For attachments, provide a note in square brackets at the beginning of the email content, i.e. [Attachment-FileName.doc]. (note: no space between dash). For multiple attachments, repeat same format.

b. For images embedded in content, provide a caption enclosed in square brackets, i.e. [pic-caption] besides the image.

c. In embedding links, ensure that the entire URL address is traceable.

Explanation of rules

2.2 Make a note if one of the recipients has been removed from the correspondence [see Screen capture 6].

Make a note if one of the recipients has been removed from the correspondence

Screen capture 6: Make a note if one of the recipients has been removed from the correspondence

2.3 a. Email with an attachment should include a note in the email content [see Screen capture 7]. For multiple attachments, repeat same format [see Screen capture 8].

Provide a note for attachment in the email content

Screen capture 7: Provide a note for attachment in the email content

Provide a note for all attachments in the email content

Screen capture 8: Provide a note for all attachments in the email content

2.3 b. Provide a caption for images embedded in the email content [see Screen capture 9].

Provide a caption for embedded image Screen capture 9: Provide a caption for embedded image

2.3 c. Ensure the entire URL address is traceable [see Screen capture 10].

Ensure the entire URL address is traceable Screen capture 10: Ensure the entire URL address is traceable

Rule 3: Back up email – Make a copy of all emails in your mailbox to external media at regular intervals

This rule is to ensure that records of past emails are available for verification and corroboration when disputes arise.

3.1 Back up all email items in your mailboxes (including inbox, sent folder and calendar) in your work computer and name these folders systematically by date. On fixed regular dates, copy these folders to an external media (i.e. portable drive) for safe keeping. The following steps are recommended:

a. In the Outlook Archive, create a folder and name it with the appropriate date range e.g. “Backup 2014-Jan-Jun”

b. Arrange your Outlook Mailbox by Date (Conversations). Copy all emails with the date range (i.e. 2014 Jan-Jun) to the folder created

Note:
If you wish to make space in your mailbox or you are reaching the 5GB limit, you can delete the emails in the mailboxes after your backup. If you still have space in your mailbox, you may want to leave those already been backed up emails there until the next backup exercise. This is to enable you to continue having online access to these emails. However regardless of which action you are taking, always ensure that the emails in your inbox have been backed up

c. At the same time, copy the Archive file to a portable hard drive.

d. Store the portable hard drive in a safe place away from your main computer.

3.2 Over time, your Outlook Archive should have a list of folders with backup emails

e.g.
Backup 2012-Jul-Dec
Backup 2013-Jan-Jun
Backup 2013-Jul-Dec
Backup 2014-Jan-Jun
Backup 2014-Jul-Dec

[Important: Rule 3 is applicable for Windows user only. For Mac user please contact CITS]

Explanation of rules

3.1 a. In the Outlook Archive, create a folder and name it with the appropriate date range, e.g. “Backup 2014-Jan-Jun”

Steps:

1. Go to File

Go to File

2. Click Info

Click Info

3. Click Account Settings

Click Account Settings

4. Click the Data Files

Click the Data Files

5. Click Add…

Click Add…

6. Add a new file in your drive D: in your main computer and name the file as “Archive”

Add a new file in your drive Da

Add a new file in your drive Db

7. New file is created and will be displayed in the Outlook.

New file is created

8. Right click to create new folder under the “Archive” in the Mailbox panel

Right click to create new folder

9. Name the folder with date range: “Backup 2014-Jan-Jun”, “Backup 2014-Jul-Dec”.

Name the folder with date range

10. Newly created folder will be displayed under the Archive

Newly created folder

11. Create backup email folder and back up emails every 6 months

Create backup email folder

b. Refer to Part D- FAQ Question 6 on how to arrange emails by Date (Conversations).

c. Copy the Archive file to a portable hard drive.

Steps:

1. Locate the file of your backup folder. Right click Archive and select “Open File Location”.

Locate the file of your backup folder

2. Copy the Archive file which is in .pst format.

Copy the Archive file which is in .pst format

3. Paste the Archive file (in .pst format) to a portable hard drive.

 

Note:
For viewing of email records, it is recommended that users use the conversation thread available in Outlook. The “Show as Conversations” function, which groups the emails by date based on conversation, shows the entire thread of email correspondences (whether a sent, replied, moved or received email or a calendar item) on the same subject arranged in chronological order.