UMM Netiquette Guidelines


E-mail and the Internet have revolutionized communication. Communication has never been easier, quicker or more convenient. It is important, however, also to recognize the limitations of these two media. For example, e-mail is not considered a private or secure medium. Similarly, web pages are considered publications, even though they require no editing or critical evaluation to approve or guide quality of content. Hence, information and misinformation abound on the Web.

This document is intended to provide general guidance to UMM personnel and demonstrate ways to show common courtesy when using e-mail and working on the Internet. We consider these “words to the wise,” but they are not institutional policies of the University of Maine at Machias or University of Maine System at this time nor do they carry punitive implications beyond those that are currently law or University policy.


Don’t open executable files that are sent via e-mail, and be cautious of those downloaded from the web. A good rule of thumb is to never open an attachment from a sender you don’t recognize, and never open a downloaded file from the web unless it is from a trusted source. The following are examples of extensions on executable files that should be treated with caution:

.DAT files

.EXE files

Less commonly, you may see the following: .BAT, .COM, .CPL, .DLL, .JS, .JSE, .PIF, .SCR, .VB, .VBE, .VBS, .WS, .WSC, .WSF, .WSH and a few others



Reread your messages carefully before you hit the ‘send’ button. If you are unsure whether or not the content is appropriate, consult a colleague or supervisor---or play it safe, and don’t send.

Be careful of blanket replies. If you want to play it safe and make sure messages only go to those that you intend, type in the addresses yourself.

Don’t use e-mail when other forms of communication would work better. A telephone call or face-to-face conversation may avoid misunderstandings. Debates, negotiations, or open-ended discussions may be best managed in other ways.

For mass mailings, it is often best to use the Bcc: field so that e-mail addresses do not end up in the hands of people that the owner does not know.

Don't send large amounts of unsolicited information to people.


  1. Format

    • Make things easy for the recipient.

    • Take the time to proofread your message and utilize the spell check. It shows professionalism.

    • Maintain an appropriate signature file or use a separate signature for professional venues.

    • As with other forms of written communications, your e-mails should be clearly written and concise.

  1. Content

    • Avoid offensive language of any kind. Using e-mail to harass others is explicitly prohibited in University policy and violates civil rights laws. (see University policy regarding harassment)

    • Try to be clear about meaning. “Separate opinion from facts or other content in the message. Keeping the focus on facts and substance and away from opinion promotes clear understanding” (1).

    • Although UMM makes reasonable efforts to keep e-mail secure, e-mail is ­not a confidential medium. Do not send private information or third-party conversations. Supervisors should always convey initial disciplinary or performance reviews in a face-to-face meeting.

    • Don’t post things on the web that you wouldn’t want your family, your supervisor, law enforcement or a future potential employer to see.

    • “Use clear and meaningful subject lines that your reader will understand. "Service Quality Meeting Today" is clearer than "Meeting.”

    • Write single subject e-mail messages whenever possible. Stick to the subject of your message” (1).

    • “Avoid sending messages or posting articles which are no more than gratuitous replies to replies” (2).

    • Be sure you are not using “Reply to All” inadvertently or unnecessarily.

    • “Avoid redundant or nearly content-free postings (e.g. "I agree" to 10,000 recipients)” (3).

    • Never illegally copy and/or make available copyrighted works (3).

    • Be circumspect about using professional list-serves to send messages of personal content.

  2. Tone

    • It is hard to convey tone and intent in a quick e-mail. It is often unclear if someone is being sarcastic, ironic or joking.

    • Flaming - The term ‘flaming’ arose to describe heated exchanges, communication composed while angry. Personal attacks and belligerence are never welcome and create more problems than they solve. Don’t post or respond to heated dialogue.

  3. Quoting Messages

    • “Do not copy or forward a message or attachments without the author's permission. Asking for permission to forward a message or attachment demonstrates your integrity in personal and business communications” (1).

  4. Respect

    • As with all forms of communication, treat others as you would like to be treated. Go out of your way to make sure that your respect and appreciation are clear.

  5. Legal Aspects

    • Once a message is sent or a webpage is posted, it is considered a public document, legally.

    • But e-mails and webpages are copyright protected.


Notes –These guidelines were adapted, based on:

  1. Yale University Library: STOD - Netiquette. netiquette/postscript.html. Accessed 1/19/06.

  2. Sally Hambridge. IETF-RUN Working Group. Accessed 1/23/06

  3. Cerf, V., "Guidelines for Conduct on and Use of Internet". Accessed 1/23/06

Share |