Etiquette Tips & Guidelines


The RAC listserv is a tool for its members to share information with one another. To help make the listserv a positive experience for all RAC members, please consider the following guidelines.

1. Remember you are interacting with people. Because you only see letters stringing across a screen, it is easy to forget or ignore that more than fifty people sit on the other side of the network. Over the RAC Listserv, you should consider yourself as having a face-to-face conversation in a crowded room of fifty RAC members plus certain FHWA and NCHRP personnel!

2. Differentiate between public and private messages. Send personal messages, such as criticism of a personal nature, to the affected person only. To broadcast such messages on the RAC Listserv could embarrass and anger. A message that does not apply to the recipient is "junk" email. Most recipients find these annoying.

3. Make subject lines descriptive. People should have a flavor of the message from glancing at the subject line. "Hello," is not as good as, "Changes in RAC Funding Working Group Teleconference Schedule."

4. Be brief. State your message succinctly, as more people will read it, so it will have greater impact.

5. Write clearly and logically. Simplicity of expression usually is best.

6. Be prudent with speculation. The mailing list is public space. On the Internet, rumor can grow extravagant and spread like fire.

7. Be cautious with humor and sarcasm. Be cautious with humor and sarcasm. Typed language is naturally colder than spoken language, because it is not accompanied by voice inflections and body language. Quite easily, humor can be taken as insult, especially if subtle. Write in a style that comes across as respectful, friendly, and approachable. You do not want to sound curt or demanding.

8. Ask others to read your email before sending it. Take a moment to print draft email and ask a co-worker to read and review it for clarity, correctness, grammar and style.

9. Be cautious with questionnaires and surveys. Try not to overload the RAC listserv with surveys. See the RAC Survey Guidelines document for more specific guidance regarding survey creation and presentation. Also, consider whether a Listserv maintained by another AASHTO Committee might be more appropriate and more directly reach a target audience within the State DOTs. Keep the number of survey requests to a minimum. Responding to these surveys can be very time consuming, especially when the survey is long and/or complex. Another issue to be aware of is sending surveys that require extensive coordination among various offices within a DOT. These create a lot of work for the research manager and the other DOT employees involved. The chance of success in getting a good response rate on these types of surveys is probably very low.

10. Safeguard intellectual property. Do not post copyrighted materials (unless you own the copyright).

11. Large attachments cause problems. Just a few emails with large attachments can exceed a recipient’s allocated email-server storage, resulting in the email server rejecting new email until they clean out their Inbox. Therefore, avoid sending large attachments. If you need to send a file greater than about 1 MB, post the file on your agency website or FTP server and provide the RAC members with the URL link where they can download it.

12. Check the "TO" box to see where your Reply is going. When replying to a message, decide whether it should go to the individual or the full group. The default ‘reply’ may not go where you think it will go, so look at the ‘TO:’ box in your reply email to see what email address was entered automatically when you hit ‘Reply’ or ‘Reply All.’ If your reply will be of interest to all, then it should go to the whole group (AASHTO_RAC@LSW.NAS.EDU), while other times your replies, such as survey responses, should go only to the individual requesting the survey responses. You may have to manually copy and paste an email address to get the reply to go where you intend it to go.

13. Edit the original message in your replies. When replying to a message, re-send at least a few summarizing lines of the original message so the reader will know immediately what matter you are addressing. The user who receives dozens of messages a day will more easily remember what they wrote a couple days before. However, consider not re-sending the entire original message or chain of messages, especially if long, as it likely unneeded by the receiver and an unnecessary burden for email servers.

14. Sign your postings. It is good practice to include a few lines at the end of your message indicating your name, agency affiliation, e-mail address and research homepage URL, because some email programs do not automatically display such information.