Nonprofit Accounting Basics

Email Best Practices Using Outlook 2010

Note: Articles published before January 1, 2017 may be out of date. We are in the process of updating this content.


Email remains an excellent tool to share business content but only if each email is clear, professional, relevant, and appropriate. Microsoft Outlook is the software standard for email, client/member contact, meeting scheduling, and sending and receiving business documents. Improving your Outlook skills might be one of your best time management investments, especially since Outlook 2010 includes many new features and enhancements.

This article presents tips to help you achieve:

  • efficient and faster processing of your email
  • clear and focused content to achieve intended results from your recipient

Efficient and Faster Email Processing

Turn on Conversation View. To rapidly read the history of communication on a subject line, even when prior messages have been moved to other folders, turn on Conversation View. Using Conversation View, you are able to read back in time through all emails on a subject line and all email threads from different people participating in the conversation. You can also delete all the email in the conversation in one step.

Tip: On the View tab, in the Conversations group, select the Show as Conversations check box. Click All folders or This folder. Outlook filters the emails together with symbols to expand and collapse the display.

Complete Names with Check Names. To rapidly enter the names of the recipients in an email message, use the Check Names feature. When typing a name that you have already sent to, the autocomplete list displays and allows you to select the name. What if you begin typing a name that is actually in the global address list or contacts and the autocomplete feature is not finding the name?

Tip: Use CTRL+k on the keyboard or click the new Check Names tool on the Ribbon. Outlook will complete the name and underline it or make suggestions if multiple names with the same spelling are present. You can also type a semicolon between names and continue to add more names using Check Names.

Flag for Recipient. Instead of sending a delegated task from the task list, you can turn an email message into an action item with a reminder.

Tip: Within a new message, click the Follow Up tool on the Ribbon and click Add Reminder. Check the Flag for Recipient choice and indicate the reminder wording and the date and time.

Link to a File vs. Send as Attachment. Attaching files to email messages may create needless copies of files and ultimately multiple versions of files. Within your company, try sending a link to a file instead of sending an attachment.

Tip: Within the email message, select the Insert tab on the Ribbon and click the Attach File tool. Browse to the file on a network shared drive and point at the drop down triangle on the right side of the Insert button. Select Insert as Hyperlink choice. If the recipient has permission on the network to open files from this location, when they click the hyperlink, the file will open.

Note: Html format does not allow the selection of the file link. If the Insert with Hyperlink feature is not available, cancel out of the dialog box. Select the Format Text tab on the Ribbon and click this Format tool. Repeat the steps to add the hyperlink.

Quickly Attach files from within Excel, Word, and PowerPoint. If you need to attach a file that you are just completing, you can save time with this tip.

Tip: In Word, Excel, or PowerPoint use the email tool on the Quick Access Toolbar to immediately generate a new message form with the opened file attached to the email message. When using this feature to trigger a new email message, you will have to click the signature tool in on the Ribbon in the message to add your AutoSignature.

Create Clarity in Email Content

Emails can result in efficient information sharing and review, and they can cause significant problems if a specific email lacks clarity or is somehow unprofessional, inappropriate, or irrelevant to the recipient(s).Tip: Put a clear message in the first or second sentence of the email so that the recipients quickly see exactly what they are supposed to do with the information contained in the email.

Recipients are usually working fast and prioritize their email reading based on what is required and when it is required. Tip: If the message includes something the recipients need to do, use the Subject box to briefly overview the request and state the date or time the request is required.

Recipients understand that long emails require their full attention, so they often defer reading emails that require scrolling until they have enough time to deal with the information. Tip: Create emails that do not require scrolling and perhaps do not exceed five sentences. Lengthy and/or complex information should be in attachments.

Writing an email to communicate anger and other negative feelings is dangerous to relationships and reputation. Tip: Draft emails that might contain emotional language or thoughts without inserting the recipient’s email address. Keep the recipient box empty, or insert your email address. Complete the email and retain it as a draft. Before sending the email, review it and eliminate the emotional language and make sure it addresses the issue clearly, appropriately, and professionally.

Most emails are archived or backed up. Assume that each email written will reside in multiple archives for many years and perhaps never removed. Tip: Do not use email for information that is sensitive, confidential, or negative. And always encrypt sensitive file attachments.

If you enjoyed these tips, watch for an upcoming article that will discuss more valuable Outlook 2010 features.