• Correspondence: Guidelines for Letters, Memos and Email

    Communicating in writing to a single person or small group of people requires the same care and attention used in preparing a formal document with much larger circulation. In fact, because email messages, letters and memos reflect on the professionalism of the district staff member who wrote them and on the district itself, they may require even more care and attention.

    Tip: Most word-processing and email programs — including Microsoft Word and Outlook, the district's standard programs — have spell- and grammar-check tools. While these tools are not perfect, they can provide an easy and quick initial check for correctness. All formal district correspondence should be spell-checked and then proofread, ideally and if time allows by someone other than the staff member who composed the message. This “second set of eyes” can be helpful not only for finding typographic or other errors, but also in identifying passages that may be unclear.

    Recommended letter format

    A letter is generally the appropriate form of communication if the message is formal and directed at a recipient or audience beyond school or district staff. Official district correspondence should be composed in Word on the district's letterhead template; schools can use the district letterhead or their own school letterhead.

    In composing your letter, these settings should be used.

    • Font: Times New Roman
    • Size: 12 (can decrease to 11 if required to keep content from running a few lines onto a new page)
    • Spacing: single spaced, block paragraph style (all paragraphs flush left with no indent, and a single blank line between paragraphs)
    • Signature line: Below the closing (e.g., “Sincerely”) and actual signature, include the writer's name, title and department or office. If contact information (phone and/or email) does not appear in the text of the letter, include it here. Do not include any taglines, quotations, etc., other than a school motto, if that does not appear on the letterhead itself.

    Recommended memo format

    A memo is appropriate for internal audiences. Memos should be composed in Word on the district's memo template (or a school memo template if one is available), using these settings.

    • Font: Times New Roman
    • Size: 12 (can decrease to 11 if required to keep content from running to a few lines on a new page)
    • Spacing: single spaced, block paragraph style (all paragraphs flush left with no indent, and a single blank line between paragraphs)
    • Contact: in the “From” line (near the top of the district memo template), include the sender' name, office/department, phone number and email address

    Recommended email format

    (Tip: When checking and writing email via Outlook Web Access, which does not offer spell-check tools, messages can be composed in Word and then pasted into an email message. Also, if using Web Access, the Internet Explorer browser provides many more features for Outlook than do other browsers.)

    Keep in mind that email messages, though frequently less formal than printed letters, remain professional communications. As such, email messages should be composed with the same care as any other written correspondence. All City Schools employees must use district accounts for all work-related email, and must check their district email account and respond to messages regularly (at least once per business day is recommended, and much more frequently for staff whose job assignments depend on and require ongoing communication with internal and external colleagues and partners).

    Email messages should be composed using these settings.

    • Font: Calibri

    • Size: 11 if using Outlook installed on a computer; 12 if using Outlook Web Access

    • Background: Plain, blank is preferred; colored or textured backgrounds or wallpaper increase the size of messages and frequently lead to display differences across browsers and platforms — and, as such, are discouraged

    • Signature: An email “signature” is the block of text added to every message you send, according to options and preferences you set within the mail program. All City Schools staff members must use an email signature, constructed as outlined below. Note that the signature should use the same fonts noted above (not cursive script or other fonts intended to mimic handwriting). Note, too, that no closing (e.g., Sincerely, Regards, etc.) should be included here, but instead should be embedded within the body of the composed message (to enable the author to change the closing for appropriateness to the content and intended recipients of the message).

      In the email signature, include the following, each on its own line:

           Full name
           Department, office or school
           Baltimore City Public Schools
           Email xxxx@bcps.k12.md.us
           Phone xxx-xxx-xxxx

      Multiple phone numbers should only be included if there is no single best number at which the staff member can reliably be reached. If multiple numbers are included, they should all be official work numbers, and each should be flagged with number type — for example,

           Phone 410-123-4567 (desk), 410-987-6543 (cell)

    • Quotes and taglines: Many people choose to personalize their email messages with an inspirational quote or other closing at the bottom, below the signature. If you do this, please keep in mind that religious and political statements must not be used, as a matter of law. Please also keep in mind the broad audience that might receive your message, either directly or by forwarding by another party.

      Closings that provide recipients with information about the district are encouraged; these can include links to the district or school websites or to Great Kids Up Close, school logos or banner images from district initiatives. Several appropriate district signature banners are available in the template library.