Writing mass emails

Mass email (emails to more than around ten people) can be a useful way to transmit important messages to large numbers of people quickly. However, lack of clarity about the purpose and target audience for such emails can hinder communication, irritate recipients and prevent the objective of the email from being achieved.

Including phrases such as ‘disseminate as appropriate’, or ‘disseminate widely’ give the recipient no indication of who to send the information on to or why it should be sent. This can waste substantial amounts of recipients’ time while they try to find out this information, and may result in either no dissemination at all or cross-posting.

In general

If you are intending to send the email to very large segments of our community - all staff/all students etc - you will need to seek appropriate approval (see policy for using mass mailing lists).

Is an email appropriate?

Consider first whether email is the most appropriate means to communicate the information. If an email is appropriate, consider who needs to receive the email, and whether the recipients should be cc’d (carbon copied) or bcc’d (blind carbon copied).

If people are expected to take action, they should be in the ‘to’ line, for information can be ‘cc’ or ‘bcc’ as appropriate (using bcc means that recipients will not know to whom the email has been sent and therefore, if they chose to forward it on, can result in cross-posting, but does mean that you do not get a massive list of addresses when an email is forwarded). Make sure your distribution list is up to date.

Subject

In the subject line, include a short description of the content and, if appropriate, whether the email is for action or for information. If you are forwarding an email, you may wish to edit the subject line.

Body

In the body of the email:

  1. Start with a clear statement of why the email has been sent, who it is for and what action the recipients need to take by when. Personalising emails by using recipients’ names can make the email feel less mass produced. Follow normal email etiquette and protocol.
  2. If you are sending an email on behalf of someone else (e.g. as their PA), it is helpful to put at the top of the email who the email is from.
  3. Consider using bold to draw readers’ attention to the part of the email relevant to them, and/or to vital information (e.g. deadlines).
  4. Keep the email as concise as possible (ideally less than three or four short paragraphs) although include all necessary information within it. Include links for further information as necessary (check links work before you send the email).
  5. Include information at the end about who to contact if the recipient has queries.
  6. If your email is a regular update, you should consider whether you include a line at the bottom indicating what the recipient should do if they no longer wish to receive the information.

Attachments

Think carefully about adding attachments or images to your email, especially when contacting larger groups, as these increase email file-size and take up University bandwidth and storage space. As an alternative, upload files to a suitable shared space (e.g. FLUFF, Google Drive) and simply provide a link to them.

Example

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