City of Durham Digital Guidelines

The following items are the City’s official recommendations for best practices in all things digital. Use this page to discover specifications, download templates, and discover helpful hints when communicating digitally.

Email is, in essence, a letter on organizational stationery. Email should be used to communicate information rapidly, and should be used when the information is better conveyed by computer than by telephone or hard copy.

Email in the workplace should be considered just as formal as any other type of correspondence. Texting and other shorthand methods are becoming more prevalent in today’s society. However, there is still no place within a professional organization for shortened expressions, especially in correspondence with residents and elected officials. Email correspondence should be treated as another document to put into the permanent record.

City of Durham emails should be sent using Arial or Calibri typeface, 10‐12 point. The font color of outgoing emails should be black. Replies can be dark blue (the default set in Microsoft Outlook).
Messages should be on a blank background with no stationery or graphics in the background. It is acceptable to use the City’s official flag logo or the approved departmental secondary logos.
Following are the guidelines for the appearance and structure of email signatures. All information below should be included in an email signature.
  •   First and Last Name (bold)
  •   Title (italicize)
  •   Department (italicize), City of Durham
  •   Complete physical address
  •   Phone with extension
  •   Email address
  •   City of Durham website or department webpage
  •   Optional information: Mobile phone numbers, City or departmental social media links, department taglines, legal statements


John Doe

Public Works Department, City of Durham
Street Address, Floor/Suite #
Durham, NC 277XX

P (919) 000-0000, ext. 00000
Mobile (919) 000-0000

[email protected]

E-mail correspondence to and from this sender may be subject to the North Carolina Public Records Law and can be disclosed to third parties.

Remember that listing any other information with your email signature is a reflection of the City. Personal additions to the signature are not permitted. This includes, but is not limited to, links to personal social media pages, photos, clip art, scripture or other religious sayings, poetry, and any sort of quote.

Other information that may be included with your email signature includes department-specific taglines or logos, or legal disclaimers. Statements about conservation/sustainability are also acceptable, such as, “Before printing this email, please consider the environment.”
The purpose of an out-of-office message is to not only inform people that you are not in the office, but to provide them information about when you will return and whom to contact in your absence. In your out-of-office message, provide a contact name, phone number, and email address of the person who can be contacted while you are out. This is an important way to provide good customer service to anyone who emails you while you are out of the office. Use an out-of-office message when you will be out of the office for one day or more.


I am currently out of the office and will return (insert date). I will respond to your message upon my return. If you require immediate assistance, please contact (insert name and title) at [email protected] or (919) 000-0000, ext.00000. Thank you.
digital-titlebar-additional emailetiquettetips
  •   Use a short, precise subject that clearly describes the contents of the email message.
  •   Be concise – emails are meant to be a quick read.
  •   Re-read and spell check before sending, and use proper grammar and punctuation.
  •   Answer quickly – within 24 hours. People use email because they need a prompt response.
  •   Do not write text in all caps – IT SEEMS LIKE SHOUTING and is difficult to read.
  •   Avoid texting acronyms, abbreviations, and emoticons (such as, BTW for “by the way,” or ).
  •   Use “urgent” and “important” sparingly. When all emails are marked as “urgent,” you will lose credibility, and truly urgent emails will likely not receive the attention they deserve.
  •   Be sure to answer all questions asked of you in an email. Include the previous email in your reply, so the recipient can reference the past information on the subject at hand.
  •   Use “Reply to All” only if necessary and copy only those who truly need to see your message.
  •   Communicate clearly and be polite. It is more difficult to communicate in writing than by speaking because there is no vocal inflection in written words. Always strive to be respectful, friendly, and professional, not curt or demanding.
  • Email is a medium of communication suitable for a variety of situations, but not all situations. Some matters are best discussed face-to-face or over the telephone, and some matters require writing down on paper.
  • Email is best used for scheduling, routine updating, quick questions, and other administrative efficiencies. Email is inappropriate for disciplining an employee (except as follow-up documentation). It is also inappropriate for communicating sensitive or confidential information. Email should not completely replace face-to-face meetings, team meetings, or team communication. You should also consider conference calls, SharePoint, CODI, and other communication tools as appropriate.
  • If ever in doubt as to the appropriateness of using email versus a face-to-face conversation or a telephone conversation, consult with your supervisor.

Tips for Effective PowerPoint Presentations

Before creating a PowerPoint presentation, answer two questions to make important decisions:

  1. Who is the audience? Knowing this enables you to tailor your message. Will the audience require definitions of jargon, or are they comfortable with the language of your profession?

  2. What is the purpose? Knowing why you are presenting the information will help you determine what information to include.

Once you have those questions answered, design your slides with the following tips in mind:

  • Never use more than six words per slide. The six-word rule prevents you from reading from the slide. It also helps the audience to stay focused on your presentation rather than using their attention to read lengthy slides.

  • Font size and font type matter. Use a minimum font size of 24 points. Use modern sans serif fonts, such as Calibri, Arial, Helvetica, etc. If color is used to emphasize the importance of selected text or convey other meaning, an alternate method (such as bold text) should be used. 

  • Don’t forget to design within the title-safe area, which in television broadcasting is a rectangular area that is far enough in from the four edges of the screen so text or graphics are not cut off. This matters for online video if your presentation is broadcast on Durham Television Network. A TV-friendly PowerPoint template is available in the City’s Brand Guide for employees to use. For employees who wish to use their departmental PowerPoint templates, or other organizations creating presentations for broadcast, keep your images and text within one inch from the edge of your screen.

  • Choose images over words. Even better than words on a slide is a strong image. Images can often illustrate points more clearly.

  • Reinforce, don’t repeat. Your presentation slides are to help your audience understand your topic better. Ensure the content isn’t repeating what you’re saying, but that it is reinforcing ideas through images or varied language.

  • Don’t use too many bullets. Just as putting too many words on a slide distracts the audience, a long list of bullets does the same. Instead, consider giving each item you would have bulleted its own slide.

  • Avoid too much animation, fades, or spinning text; ask yourself what purpose they have in your presentation, otherwise this can distract from the strength of your content.