FAQ: Is Email Always Correspondence?

Email buttonEvery day, our email inboxes fill up with all sorts of stuff: junk mail, meeting requests, policy updates, cat photos, leave requests, automatic response emails, blog updates. It can feel unwieldy to manage the amount and the type of email pouring in during the regular course of business. For some, the impulse is to delete all of your email as soon as you read it (don’t do this!). For others, the impulse is to keep everything in your inbox – which we also don’t recommend.

The best practice is to file email by record series in your inbox, with the retention period right in the folder name. In order to do this, you need to find the record series for each email in our Local Government or State Records Retention Schedules. Previously, Bonnie discussed the difference between general, administrative, and routine correspondence, but does all email fall into the category of correspondence?

When organizing our email, it’s easy to file most under record series GR1000-26a-c for local governments, and 1.1.007, 1.1.008, and 1.1.057 for state agencies. Correspondence is a catch-all term that can apply to any email sent and received. To refresh your memory, GR1000-26 includes Administrative Correspondence (subset a for local governments; 1.1.007 for state agencies – emails about planning, implementing, and modifying programs, services, and projects, usually from higher-level employees like managers), General Correspondence (subset b or 1.1.008 – emails pertaining to regular business operations), and Routine Correspondence (subset c or 1.1.057 – regular notices, meeting requests, or letters of transmittal). These three categories apply to many of the emails created by local governments and state agencies, but sometimes, an email falls into a more specific category.

A good rule of thumb for deciding what record series an email falls into is to look at content over format. Instead of assuming an email is correspondence, first turn to the contents of an email. To decide what record series applies to a certain email, ask yourself, “What activity does this email document?”

Here’s one example:

From: Bonnie Zuber Sent: Tuesday, January 2, 2015

To: Emma Martin

Subject: Blog design

I’ve updated the blog design to include a tab for Training Opportunities based on your feedback.  Are there any other categories that should be included in the navigation tabs?

Bonnie

In this hypothetical email, Bonnie discusses the design of the Texas Record with me. If we ask, “What does this email document?” the answer would be our blog project. Emails pertaining to designing or modifying the blog would be considered Project Records (GR5825-15 for Local Governments) . For State Agencies, this email would be considered a Publication Development File and would be filed under 1.3.002 (GEN.039). Depending on whether the record is routine or not, the retention period would be 3 years, slightly longer than General Correspondence.

Some other examples of non-correspondence emails for local governments:

Public Information Act Requests:

If you receive a Public Information Act Request for non-exempt records via email, it would fall under GR1000-34a or 1.1.020.

For a request of a record that is exempt, the email would fall under GR1000-34b or 1.1.021.  

Job Evaluations:

Job Evaluations sent as an email would be categorized as GR1050-21 or 3.1.019 and must be kept until superseded plus two years, or two years after the employee leaves.

Work Schedules:

Schedules contained in an email are record series GR1050-31 or 3.3.020 and must be kept for one year.

Leave Requests:

Messages requesting leave from a supervisor are record series GR1050-54b or 3.4.007 and must be kept after the fiscal year end plus 3 or 5 years, substantially longer than the 2 year retention period for General Correspondence.

These are only a few examples of how emails can be considered more than just correspondence, but there could be others in your inbox. By identifying the activity to which the record relates, it’s easier to find the right home for the email. In some cases, the retention period for a specific record series might be more than the retention period for correspondence. By identifying the correct record series, you are assuring that the record is kept for an adequate amount of time. If there’s not a specific record series for the type of email you are categorizing, it belongs in Administrative, General, or Routine Correspondence.

 

4 thoughts on “FAQ: Is Email Always Correspondence?

  1. Emma:
    Enjoyed your article, however, I would recommend against organizing your email in the inbox as some entities have policies which automatically delete email after a certain number of days — general between 60 to 90 days. This is to improve performance on the email server, especially for items with attachments. An email can be dragged and dropped into a folder on a virtual drive and will be converted to a *.msg file. If you ever need it again, your email software will activate and open it.

  2. Our email management webinars give some examples of the best way to organize your email (along with other great tips). You can find them here under “Email Management Part 1” and “Email Management Part 2”.

  3. Thanks, Joseph! This is a great point. It’s important to understand your government or agency’s email policies and procedures and to understand that storing email in your inbox is not a good long-term strategy. You may also consider using an email archiving tool such as Barracuda, Enterprise Vault, Mimecast, etc. We don’t endorse any of these products but they are a good place to start when researching archiving software. We talk about this more in our “Email Management Part 2” webinar, found here.

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