Most of us have sent or received letters in the post. Email (electronic mail) is the online version of this. We use it to send and receive messages across the internet and share documents. Sending emails is now so common that it’s replaced many of the ways we used to communicate.

We send emails for personal or business reasons. We use them to send and get information, or complete day-to-day tasks.

To send and receive emails, you need an email address. Simply put, this is how people identify and contact you online. Having an email address is an important part of completing many tasks online. So it’s one of the first things you’ll need to set up.

In this lesson, we’ll help you learn how to get started with email. You’ll learn how to select a provider and get to know the different ways you can use email to meet your needs.


  • Know the benefits and features of email services 
  • Feel confident selecting an email provider
  • Know the basics of creating an email 
  • Feel more able to stay safe while emailing

Read time:

15 mins

Chapter 1

Finding an email provider

Read time:

3 mins

Picking a provider that suits your needs

There are many providers you can use. Some are free. Others are part of a package with other services such as your broadband, TV or mobile phone.

Let’s look at some of the differences between these, so you can find one that best suits your needs.


Free services

You can get a free email service from many companies. But this may mean that they show adverts. This is how they can afford to run for free. These adverts will usually be quite subtle. But you should think about whether you mind seeing adverts before selecting your provider.


Examples of commonly used free email services:


Paid services

A paid email provider can be more reliable. There won’t be any adverts, and you can tailor the service to meet your needs. For example, you can back up your messages to make sure you don’t lose them. You might also be able to do things like attach larger files or add services that give you more protection from scams.


Examples of commonly used paid for services:


So, which should you pick?

Whatever option looks best to you now, you should take your time to find one that suits you. Ask people you trust and read the details of what a provider is offering you. Also, think about the type of email address you want.

Ask around

Talk to people you trust to help you decide the best option for you and your needs

Email address options

Some companies will give you an email address with their own brand name built into it. For example: or This is often the case with free services.

Others will allow you a full range of options, so you can decide what comes before the @, and what comes after it. This will usually come at a cost though. For personal use, it’s common for people to have an email address that follows


Email as part of a service

Some companies include email as part of a ‘bundle’ of paid-for services. For example, some phone companies or internet providers include an email service with your landline or Wi-Fi.

There are a few things to consider.


These are:

One set-up process - It’s likely you’ll need to spend less time on set-up

One place for support - Get help with all parts of your service from one company

One bill - Just one payment to cover all services

Email address locked - You may find that you can’t transfer your email address to another provider. To change, you’d need to set up a new address and share this with anyone who uses that information

Email address is not personal - may have the name of the provider in your email address (for instance, and you may not be able to change this part to something more personal


If you use an email address provided to you as part of a service, you may not be able to continue using it if you switch suppliers.

Chapter 2

Accessing your emails

Read time:

4 mins

Getting to your emails

There are two main ways to get to your emails. You can either use Webmail or an email application.

For Webmail, your emails are stored and backed up online. You can access them from your device by using a browser. A good tip is to save websites you may use a lot, like your emails, to your favourites. This usually looks like a little star near the web address field. It lets you save the webpage you’re on, so you can come back to it later.

Once you’re on your provider’s website, you can log in. If it’s your first time, you’ll need to register for an account. Once you’ve logged in, you can read, write and manage your emails.

Email applications work in a similar way, but you access your emails from an app. You can download these from your device’s app store. Once you have downloaded, you open the app and register and/or log in. Most app companies will also let you open emails in a browser too.

With an app, you can often read and write emails when you’re offline too, as it can save your emails locally. Once you connect to the internet again, you’ll be able to send and receive new emails.

Make webmail a ‘favourite’

In your browser, you can save websites that you use a lot – like your webmail – by ‘favouriting’ the website address. This usually looks like a star near the web address field in your browser.

Using email services

Each email service is slightly different, and their layout and features might not look the same. But they’ll all share some common features.


Some of the common email service features are:

A list of messages received - Any emails sent to you go to your ‘inbox’

A list of messages sent – Each email you send is saved in a folder called ‘sent’

A way to write a new message –  All email applications let you write new messages to others. You just need the person’s email address

A way to reply to a message –  If someone emails you, you can reply to their message. When you reply, you can see the whole conversation in one place

Ways to edit and customise your messages –  Change the way your email looks, from the style and colour of the writing to its size

A way to search your messages –  Find things by using the search bar in your email service

A way to delete messages –  If you know you aren’t going to need an email again, deleting keeps your inbox tidy


Contact lists

This is another common feature, and a very useful one. When you send an email to someone, your email service usually keeps a note of them. So the next time you go to type their name or address, it suggests the email address you’ve used before. This saves time and means you’re less likely to make mistakes by typing out their email address each time you need it.


Attaching files and adding images

Email doesn’t just let you send messages. You can also send files. Just like receiving mail through the post. Sometimes you’ll just get a letter. But occasionally, you’ll get something else, like a photo or a magazine. The same goes for email. You can attach files to your emails to send them to someone else. You can also copy and paste or insert images into your email.

How to attach a file

The button to attach files to an email usually looks like a paperclip

Saving or storing messages in folders

Just like with the post, you might want to keep important emails and files. With email, you can do this by using ‘folders’. You create and label folders in your email as a way of grouping messages together. For example, you might have a ‘bills’ folder where you save any emails you have coming in about payments. Folders usually appear in the menu of your email service.

Chapter 3

Managing your emails

Read time:

2 mins

Features to help manage your emails

Email is a very useful tool. It’s fast and easy to use. But it can become hard, keeping up with everything. As your Inbox fills with emails, you’ll need to send replies, file them away or delete them.

Each service is different and if you get stuck, you can use your provider’s help feature. But let’s look at some of the common help features now.


Selecting multiple emails

Sometimes you may want to treat many emails in the same way, all at once. For example, you might want to delete lots of emails at the same time.

To the left of each message in your inbox, you’ll often find a small square checkbox. By selecting this on a few messages, you’ll be able to do the same action to those you select.

If you don’t have these boxes, you may have a ‘select all’ button. For devices with a mouse and keyboard, click an email, hold your shift key, then click to select more. With a touchscreen device, press and hold to select your first email, then tap other emails you want to select too.


Junk and spam

Everyone will get emails they don’t really want. It could be emails from companies trying to sell you things to emails that seem to be trying to scam you. For this reason, most email services will include a junk or spam folder. Most services will be able to identify and automatically move mail here when it comes into your inbox. They look for the usual signs of spam and junk and move them, so you don’t have to.

You can also move items yourself. If you’re fed up with emails from a certain sender, you can usually set up a rule. Some email services let you select the email and pick an option like ‘send emails from this sender to spam’. Others need you to go into the rules section of your email. If this is something you want to learn to do, check the help page of your provider’s website.

If you need more support, you can phone our free Academy Digital Helpline on 0345 222 0333. The Academy Digital Helpline can give one to one support with digital skills to anyone over 18. You can call them if you need in the moment support or more support with getting online.


Sometimes emails can automatically go into your junk or spam folder by mistake. If you’re missing an email you were expecting, it’s a good idea to check this folder.


Another useful tool to manage your emails is a filter. This lets you sort emails or only display certain ones. For example, you could show only emails from 'college' with the subject ‘exam’.

You can use filters in many ways. Check the help feature of your service to use yours.


Backups or archive

Many email services will back up your emails for you. This is a good way of protecting emails, as you may need to look back at them. Check how your email service does this - you may need to select a button to start your backups.

With your emails saved online and backed up, you can use them on the move. And you can pick them up from more than one device. So you can use them on a laptop, then access those same emails later on your phone.

Chapter 4

Creating emails

Read time:

4 mins

Writing emails

Writing letters is a slow process. So we tend to think carefully about what we write. Sending an email is so quick and easy, so we often type exactly what we would say when we talk. But this doesn’t always go down well. The way you write something sometimes sounds different to how you’d say it. People might read your words differently to how you meant them. Think about this when you’re writing emails - try to get across your tone of voice.

But’s that’s not the only thing you need to consider when writing emails. Here are 7 steps to help you write an email.


Step 1 - Open up a new email

To do this, you usually select a button that says ‘New email’. If you’re replying, you can select ‘Reply’.

There is a third option where you can ‘Reply all’. Say someone has sent an email to a group of people and you want to respond to everyone, not just the person who wrote it. That’s when you’d use ‘reply all’.


Step 2 - Enter a subject

This is what you type in the ‘subject’ field. It’s the first thing someone sees when they look at your email, so it should grab their attention. Think of it as your title or a headline.


Step 3 - Write your email

The ‘body’ of the email is next. This is where you put your main message. You can use words, images, tables, links and other files.


Step 4 - Read and check your email

Often, there’s a spelling check tool you can use. It’s always a good idea to check by reading through yourself, too. There are some things that the tool won’t pick up, because it only looks at the spelling. For instance, you might have typed ‘two’ instead of ‘to’.


Step 5 - Attach any documents

Just like using a paperclip to add a file to a physical letter, you can use ‘attachments’ to add files to your emails. This is a great way to send files you need to share. Most email services even use a paperclip as a symbol for the attach button. Once you select this, you can pick a file from your device. You’ll need to think about file size, as there may be a limit to how large the attachment size can be. Images, videos and long documents tend to take up much more space.


Step 6 - Enter the name or names of the people you’re writing to

There are three ways to do this. You can enter the names of one or more people into the ‘to’ field. This tells them you expect a response, or you expect them to act on the message. You can use the ‘cc’ field. This means you want them to be able to read the email, but you don’t expect any response or action. There’s also a ‘bcc’ field. It’s a bit like ‘cc’, but other people won’t see that you’ve sent the email to those in the ‘bcc’ list.


Step 7 – Send your email

So you’ve written your email and checked it. It’s ready to go. All you need to do now is select ‘send’!


Some top tips:

  • Enter your ‘To’ and ‘cc’ last – If you fill these in first, you might send an unfinished email by accident. So finish writing your message first, then fill these in.
  • Format your emails – If you want to focus on certain words, use formats like bold type, colour, etc. But don't go too mad with this, as it can confuse your reader

Test your knowledge

Answer this question by selecting one answer from the three options provided.

That's not quite right!

Hint: You want your email to grab people's attention and understand what the email is about, before they open it.

That's right!

Before people open emails, they can see the subject line in their inbox. This helps them understand what the email is about.

Chapter 5

Staying safe

Read time:

2 mins

Staying safe

Emails are a great way to send and receive messages and information. But this means people can use them to try to steal your details. So let’s look at how you can keep yourself safe from this kind of thing.


Email scammers can:

  1. Send you an email, asking you to reply with your details
  2. Send you an email, asking you to select a link that then asks for your details (or a payment) 
  3. Send you an email with a link that puts software on your computer, which they use to get your details


How can you identify these?

Scam emails can be tricky to spot. Many scams can even fool the experts. Scammers tend to make their messages seem important, urgent and topical. This is so you feel pressured into acting.

Be aware

Never select links in an email that you’re not sure about. Try using a browser to search for the website instead.

So, you should always:


Take a moment to stop and think before doing anything that involves your finances or personal details


Does the message seem too good to be true? It’s ok to ignore it. Only criminals will try to rush or panic you


Contact your bank straight away if you think you've fallen for a scam, and report it to Action Fraud

If you think you’ve been scammed

The first thing to do is report it to Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040 or online at . If you're in Scotland, you can contact Police Scotland on 101.

Once you've done that, you should try to take steps to stop further damage. If the scam affects your bank account, you should contact your bank straight away. If you think someone has one of your passwords, take action to change your password immediately.


More information

If you want to learn more about how to stay safe when using email, we have a whole section on staying safe online. This starts with our Introduction to online safety.


Lesson complete!

Well done on completing this lesson! You should now have a good grasp of how to find and use an email service. We suggest you carry on learning with our lesson Using video tools. This helps you see and talk to your friends, family and more online.


Up next for you:

Next lesson: Using video tools
Back to: Get started online


Bank of Scotland Academy is committed to providing information in a way that is accessible and useful for our users. This information, however, is not in any way intended to amount to authority or advice on which reliance should be placed. You should seek professional advice as appropriate and required. Any sites, products or services named in this module are just examples of what's available. Bank of Scotland does not endorse the services they provide. The information in this module was last updated on 13th March 2023.