As the end of the semester rolled around at Norwich University, my special-topics students were busily sending their examining committees their final reports. One lad - let\u2019s call him \u201cAlbert Baker\u201d - noted that he was resending his report because one of his examiners mentioned that he hadn\u2019t received it. The student apologized for possible duplicates.I responded that I hadn\u2019t seen it either.An hour later, I opened an e-mail message from a sender I didn\u2019t recognize; firstname.lastname@example.org (all names and addresses have been changed to nonexistent ones). The topic was \u201cC\u2019est fini,\u201d or \u201cIt\u2019s done\u201d in French. I had left this message in my in-basket for some time because I always open messages with obvious subject lines and from people I know before dealing with reader correspondence, messages from strangers, or possible junk e-mail.The mysterious message turned out to be from Albert and included the missing report. Had he sent it from his Norwich account, which would be email@example.com, or at least included his real name, I would have opened it sooner. Had he used a meaningful subject line, such as \u201cIS406 Final Report,\u201d it wouldn\u2019t have sat there unopened for so long.This incident got me thinking about the current overload of e-mail that so many of us are suffering under and what it means for effective use of this communications channel.Sending e-mail that doesn\u2019t get opened is a breach of security in that it violates the principle of utility. What\u2019s the use of sending a message that gets ignored? Or at least, that gets ignored longer than it should? That slowdown could be viewed as a breach of availability of the message.So here are some simple suggestions you can circulate among your colleagues in your next newsletter to help improve the usefulness and timeliness of e-mail that matters - by which I mean e-mail that is work-related and needs a response:1) Configure your e-mail client to include your real name, not a blank or a pseudonym. Your e-mail address can be anything you like; just be sure that you don\u2019t send people e-mail whose only identifier is something like firstname.lastname@example.org) Use a meaningful subject line. Don\u2019t be cute: \u201cSomething sweet for you\u201d is more likely to be dumped in the spam\/porn receptacle than opened in these days of swarming unwanted e-mail.3) Don\u2019t use the \u201cforward\u201d or \u201creply\u201d function of your e-mail to start a completely new topic. Especially if the topic you\u2019ve been discussing is low-priority and your subject line just continues using that string instead of indicating a new, more important topic, don\u2019t be surprised if some of your recipients assign low priority to your new message, too. It can be disconcerting to open a message apparently discussing, say, \u201cRefund policy for out-of-town expenses\u201d and discover that it\u2019s actually dealing with what should have been labeled, \u201cEmergency faculty meeting called for 3:00 today\u201d - especially when you open the message the day after the meeting.4) Be modest: Not everything you say or find interesting is worth sending to everyone you know. Contrary to the apparent belief of some egoists, their colleagues do not in fact sing Sting\u2019s \u201cEvery breath you take\u201d song as they wait expectantly for the next \u201cMe too\u201d or \u201cYeah! Right on! You go, girl!\u201d comment appended to 12 pages of copies of copies of copies of some two-week-old message they\u2019ve already seen 32 times. Send too much junk and all your mail will be relegated to the virtual dust bin.This last point bears a little elaboration. At one point, someone in my university decided to send the entire faculty a \u201cThought for the Day\u201d consisting of some cute quotation. Well, I pretty quickly added that person\u2019s e-mail address to my \u201cplace in junk e-mail folder\u201d filter. Unfortunately, the same person was responsible for sending out faculty notices that really did matter, so I ended up having to check all this rubbish anyway. Someone must have complained, because the junk did eventually stop.OK, now if this were junk e-mail, it would end \u201cSEND THIS TO EVERYONE YOU KNOW!!!!\u201dBut it isn\u2019t (I hope).