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Biggest Email Mistake - Reply All

Updated on March 10, 2008

Email has been a wonderful technology for both personal and professional use. The use of email at work has enabled employees the ability to communicate instantaneously. Of course, you probably already know this, but do you know that a lot of employees make quite an unprofessional mistake with email on a fairly regular basis? It’s called the Reply All button.

What is Reply All?

When you reply all to an email, you don’t only reply to the one person who sent out the original email message, but also to everyone else that email was sent to. This is very useful when more than one person needs to receive all of the information. However, it can be a problem when the original message was sent out to a large group of people.

The Reply All Mistake

While this option can be useful, it can also be a real pain in the butt. When someone sends out an announcement-type email to everyone in your company, your email box can fill up quickly if people reply all to that email.

For example, I work at a college where all of the employees in the district (four schools, plus the district office, and multiple satellite locations) have the ability to send out a mass email to every employee. These emails generally serve as announcements for events happening at one of the campuses, but some employees feel the need to use these announcements as an excuse to start a district wide email conversation.

This happens fairly frequently, but one amusing incident happened last December as we were gearing up for the holidays. A member of our culinary department sent out a mass email to everyone encouraging them to order their Christmas cookies from the school early. Sounds good, right?

Well, when I got to work the next morning, I found at least fifteen emails waiting for me—all about the dang Christmas cookies. As the day went on, more and more emails popped into my box. The first email was sent from the original sender, apologizing for using the phrase “Christmas cookies” when she should have used “holiday cookies” so as not to leave anyone out or offended. She explained that she had been given a reminder about this mistake from someone in Human Resources about this. This led to many reply all emails basically saying how ridiculous it is that the woman had to apologize, blah blah blah. Those who don’t celebrate Christmas weren’t offended. Why does the PCness of everything have to ruin the holiday spirit? HR is evil. Yada yada yada.

It isn’t that I didn’t agree with what a lot of people were saying, but I use my email for work. I rely on my email for work. So, it is difficult to weed through the Christmas/Holiday cookies emails to find relevant emails.

Then came the barrage of emails from people asking that everyone stop pushing the reply all button. Then, more people responded, saying they can push reply all if they want, and who do you think you are telling us what we can and cannot do with our email?

Do you see where I’m going with this? The reply all button, when improperly used, can lead to an avalanche of insanity.

Just chalk this up to one more case of technology gone bad. By the way, the next time you push that reply all button, make sure it is the right thing to do.

Comments

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    • MarloByDesign profile image

      MarloByDesign 9 years ago from United States

      Oh boy, I hope that is not a real email in your diagram - they might get spammed!

      Interesting hub!

    • Just_Rodney profile image

      Rodney Fagan 9 years ago from Johannesberg South Africa, The Gold Mine City

      Thanks for the advice, will be more carefull in future.

    • Stacie Naczelnik profile image
      Author

      Stacie Naczelnik 9 years ago from Seattle

      Marlo - just in case, I changed it.

    • WeddingConsultant profile image

      WeddingConsultant 9 years ago from DC Metro Area

      Good hub. At my last job I worked for a large corporation (1500+ stores), and every now and then a company wide email would go out. It was REALLY annoying when some joe-schmoe hit "reply all" to kiss butt and say how wonderful such-and-such or so-and-so was.

    • Stacie Naczelnik profile image
      Author

      Stacie Naczelnik 9 years ago from Seattle

      I work at a very liberal college, so sometimes our Reply All emails get heated with political discussions. Often, it turns into downright mud throwing.

    • WeddingConsultant profile image

      WeddingConsultant 9 years ago from DC Metro Area

      Yes, those are always fun! Actually, now come to think of it, my own family does that all the time! We get into reply-all email arguments frequently.

    • sdorrian profile image

      sdorrian 9 years ago from Chicago

      Great Hub! This is also one of my pet peeves. I could cut my email inbox by about a third if people would stop hitting "Reply All."

    • profile image

      email 9 years ago

      Cool hub, I totally agree

    • Just_Rodney profile image

      Rodney Fagan 9 years ago from Johannesberg South Africa, The Gold Mine City

      Another reason why not to REPLY ALL

      There is another problem also associated with using the reply all. That is when you when someone in sending ot an email to a group of their contacts, and wants them either to feel important, or they don't want to see a page of to: followed by the entire sales team and have used the "BCC" or blind copy feature in sending the email.

      This is usually used to either personalise the appearance, or do not want to see the entire "sales team's" email addresses. As all the recipient sees is there name on the email, they might then totally by mistake cause an embarresment or some other minor slip.

    • Uriel profile image

      Uriel 8 years ago from Lebanon

      yes "the reply to all" option can get a pain in the potato especially when everyone replies to all and they forward it and so on... Man this really makes your inbox explode :S (i am from the type of student who doesn't live on the net) Then next day you have more than 60 emails...:S ... i guess this hub should be sent to all pple using email accounts

    • profile image

      JOHNNY MCDANIEL 8 years ago

      Thanks for the info --- have never used "reply all", and wondered what it envolved. Probably won't ever use it now...

    • cgull8m profile image

      cgull8m 7 years ago from North Carolina

      I will do this when people send me spam mail :) I tell my friends to send it as bcc but they always use the "CC" option.

    • profile image

      isyan 7 years ago

      informative topic... good hub.. keep it up...

    • justemailme profile image

      justemailme 7 years ago

      Makes perfect sense. Thank you for sharing. Very useful information. I also wrote something about how spamming is a waste of time in my hub.

    • Mahmo profile image

      Mahmo 7 years ago

      Some times the Reply All button puts you in a critcal position when your reply contains some private stuff which is intended for perusal of particular addressees and not all of them.There is a need for confirmation alert or message following the sender's press of the Send Button such as " Send to all ? ".It might be useful as well to add a Callback button in order to change the addressees.

    • profile image

      YO 6 years ago

      I HATE the reply all button! I will use it for specific business situations where everyone included in the email really needs to know the reply...

      But when the company sends out "we are having an ice cream social tomorrow at 2:30"... I can't stand getting 50 emails saying "I'll be there!!!"... I don't care if you'll be there!!!!

      UGH... some people should have reply all completely removed from their email options.

    • sueroy333 profile image

      Susan Mills 6 years ago from Indiana

      I have to agree with Mahmo- the "reply all" button can sometimes be the main button, and if you aren't paying attention Jane in accounting can find out that Martha in packaging thinks she's a slobbering idiot. This is the point where someone, usually me, goes in to hiding for a while.

      And yes, YO, some people (me) should definitely have the "reply all" button completely removed. If you would just tell me how!!!!

      Great article. I enjoyed reading it very much!

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