Unquestionably, e-mail is the most requested topic of my seminars. As well as being concerned by how grammatical and proofreading mistakes reflect on individuals and the company, managers recognize the problems caused by the sheer volume of e-mail employees receive. I hear people bemoan the fact they have hundreds of e-mails each day. One of the most exasperating causes is the profligate use of Reply All.
Just today a client sent me an example. An e-mail welcomed a new employee. It must have had at least 50 addresses in the cc field. You can only imagine what happened as a number of the cc’d individuals hit Reply All and added their congratulations. Yes, those congratulations went to everyone cc’d on the original e-mail. The result: legions of unnecessary e-mails.
There are countless examples of misuse of Reply All. It happens to me on a regular basis. In one case, I received an e-mail from an individual who communicates with a group of professionals. Inevitably, individuals in the group hit the Reply All when they send something as innocuous as a “Thank you for the information.” Now all the members are subjected to these unnecessary e-mails. Yet, I have to open each e-mail because some actually will contain valid information. Unfortunately, that means I end up opening and scanning those “Thank you” e-mails as well. Ugh!
One of my pet peeves concerning Reply All is when a person sends an e-mail asking several people to a meeting. Inevitably, some recipients will hit Reply All, and let everyone invited know if they are coming. Unnecessary. Instead, they should hit the Reply button, and let the organizer of the meeting know if they are coming. Everyone else does not need to know.
The Reply All button is located too conveniently right next to the Reply button. So it falls to each of us to make an effort to use the Reply All button only when it is really called for — for instance when you have something of substance to add to a discussion. Do your colleagues a favor: Before you hit Reply All, ask yourself if it is really necessary for everyone on the original e-mail to receive your response.
E-mail questions about business etiquette to