Email: Content vs Attachments

Welcome to the first in a series of top-IT-tips to get you properly using technology to enhance teaching and learning. This week I’m tackling probably my biggest gripe ever.

Email: Content vs Attachemnts

Please stop getting email wrong.

The content of an email should be all of the information that you want to communicate, it’s just like a letter that way. Attachments to that email are meant to support the content or be an easy way of sending a file.

You should never, ever send the content of your email in an attachment.

What you do wrong

Sending an email where the important things to read are on the attached PowerPoint drives everyone who reads it crazy. If you expect someone to open your email, read it, then open the attachment – hoping they have the right software installed – and then read and action it; then you’re going to have a bad time.

You can’t guarantee that people will have PowerPoint, Excel or whatever installed – so why take the chance? They’ve definitely  got email, so just use that!

The Sarcastic example

Screen Shot 2013-11-22 at 10.30.15

You can see here that I’m sending out a homework reminder to my students, as I’ve already got a PowerPoint with the homework on I think I’m saving time by sending out the homework in the attachment.

This is a little lazy, to say the least.


1. Recipient may be in a rush or won’t care enough to open the attachment. But they’ve already read the email. Why wasn’t the content there?

2. The file size of the email is orders of magnitude bigger than it needs to be, this email will take ages to send and may not even arrive if the recipient’s inbox is too full

3. What if the recipient hasn’t got PowerPoint? Isn’t that a perfect excuse for not doing the homework?

How to do it right

Screen Shot 2013-11-22 at 10.31.33

Simple. Just write, or copy and paste the content into the body of the email. No attachment means smaller files, recipients are more likely to read it and they will definitely be able to.


This also applies to when you send out something quickly. Just because the content is in the form of a PowerPoint presentation, Word file, or whatever; it doesn’t mean that it is an appropriate form for communicating the information.

PowerPoint is meant for presentations from a single point with very little text. It should not be used to communicate huge swathes of information without a presenter there in-person.

Word is meant for writing lots of text that eventually gets printed on paper and shared. If it’s not being printed then a word file is a poor delivery method for the content.


If you want to effectively and quickly communicate with your colleagues, or even with students and parents, then make sure that the content of your email is written in the email itself.


If you’re sending email correctly then the only time anyone should ever need to open the attachment is if they’re really interested in what you’ve explained in the body text.

Otherwise you’re getting I.T. wrong!

And if you are, then maybe you need my book…

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