Online communication

Online Communication

Online communication plays an important role in how we serve our University community. These guidelines will ensure that we are good University ambassadors during every interaction. We recognize there will be peak-demand periods throughout the year when service excellence is more difficult to maintain. These guidelines will help us provide our highest quality of service year-round.

Initial response
  • Acknowledge receipt of the correspondence promptly. Set your email program up to generate an automatic bilingual acknowledgement and indicate when you will be able to respond, preferably within one business day. Provide a phone number and contact name in case the matter is urgent.
  • Always respond in the official language chosen by the correspondent.
  • If you will be away from your desk for a day or more, set up your email program to generate a bilingual “away” message that provides an alternate contact name and email address. Check that your replacement will be in the office when you’re absent.
  • Always use the formal “vous” when responding in French.
  • Be sure to manage expectations by acknowledging receipt of the email personally within 24 hours. If you are unable to answer the correspondent immediately, provide the correspondent with a timeframe for when you will have the answers.
Establish rapport
  • Be sure to address the person by his or her full name (only use Ms. or Mr. if you’re certain of their sex).
  • Keep the tone of your response pleasant, enthusiastic and professional. Take the time to respond in full sentences. Incomplete sentences may be seen as brusque or impatient.
  •  Use professional, straightforward language, avoiding University administrative jargon.
  •  Use proper grammar and spelling.
Ensure confidentiality (when necessary)
  • When students use uOttawa email, this confirms their identity.
  • If students don’t write from a uOttawa email account when confidential information is required, tell them you will respond to their uOttawa account.
  • When you tell them so, explain that it’s necessary for you to confirm peoples’ identity to ensure the confidentiality of their data.
  • If applicable, for transactional purposes, ask for a student or employee number.
  • If the student doesn’t have his or her number, ask for the student’s name and date of birth to verify through the University system.
Confirm your understanding
  • When you’re uncertain about what the person’s exact needs are, repeat the question or concern back to the individual in your own words (e.g. “If I understand correctly, you’re asking if…”).
Be the solution
  • Respond to the question clearly.
  • If the issue is complex, schedule an appointment to speak in person or by phone in order to avoid prolonged back-and-forth correspondence.
  • If you’re not sure of the correct answer, tell the person that you will contact him or her once you have the necessary information, and make sure to follow up.
  • If the person must be referred to another individual or department, be sure to carbon copy (cc) the person referred to in email.
  • If you transfer the person, invite him or her to contact you again if the matter isn’t resolved.
Close the email
  • Ensure you’ve answered all questions and concerns by asking if the client has any other questions.
  • Thank the person for the email and wish him or her a good day.
Signature line

End all of your emails with a signature line using the following format:

Full name

French job title | English job title

French Dept./Faculty/Unit | English Dept./Faculty/Unit

Dept./Faculty URL (in both languages, if applicable)

Email address

Telephone number, including area code with extension in parentheses)

Fax number (including area code)

Postal address

Quick tips
  • Be courteous in the way you start your emails.
  • Use a clear and concise subject line.
  • Keep the email concise.
  • Cc only those who really need to know what you’re talking about and avoid using Bcc.
  • Proofread for grammar, punctuation and spelling.
  • Make your email action-oriented.
  • Beware of the “reply all” button.
  • Set up in-person or over-the-phone meetings when necessary.
Out of office email


Votre message m’est bien parvenu. Toutefois, je ne pourrai y donner suite qu’à mon retour le [date de retour]. Pour toute question urgente, veuillez communiquer avec [nom] à [] ou au 613 562-5800 poste [xxxx].


Thank you for your message. I will be out of the office until [return date] and will respond to you at that time. If this is an urgent matter, please contact [name] at [] or 613 562-5800 extension [xxxx].


Your name

Votre poste | Your title

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