When Is It OK to Reply All?

I currently have over 10K email in my inbox. This is not because I am important or popular, it is because in the spring, my 5 over scheduled kids were in three different schools, on 13 different teams, and combined for a grand total of about 20+ different notifications. On top of this, there are social events, my own life, work stuff and the endless advertisements, shipping notifications, etc. You get the idea. There are a lot of emails and I’m terribly bad at taking the time to delete. Even when I do, it feels like I am shoveling water with a teaspoon out of a sinking ship.

REPLY ALL IS MAKING THE HOLE IN MY BOAT BIGGER!!!!! EMAIL ETIQUETTE, PEOPLE.

Please stop and think before you hit the Reply All button. Email gives you options. You see them right? You can Reply, Reply All, or Forward.

Reply is what you will use almost all the time. Reply is responding just to the person who sent the email, the person who wants your response, who, in many cases, is waiting for an answer. Reply is to the person who chose to email you in the first place. When in doubt, use Reply!!

Forward is when you want someone else who is not on the email chain to get the email. Makes sense right?

O.K. Reply All, should be used ONLY in the following cases:

  1. The original sender specifically asks you to reply all, as in, “Please reply all so everyone knows what you are bringing.” Tip to organizers: There are Sign Up websites that are super easy to use and takes away any risk of clogging emails. Try SignUp or Sign Up Genius.
  2. What you have to say is applicable to everyone on the distribution list, as in, “Please read! There are no bathrooms at the field, so go before you leave and don’t drink coffee on the way.”
  3. The Replying All has gotten so egregious, you have to put an end to it, as in, “Please stop replying all, because now, I can’t even find the original information, your questions have nothing to do with me, I don’t need to see your thank yous to the organizer, I don’t need to know if you are attending, my start up disk is now full, I’ve missed really important emails, and generally I think it is either mildly narcissistic or simply inconsiderate to think everyone needs to read your comment.”

O.K. Whew. I feel better now. I’m getting old and testy, but really think this needed to be said. If you are a chronic reply all-er, I hope I didn’t offend. Likely you don’t even realize you are doing it. Now, you can stop. If you use your Reply All sparingly, well done you, and now please share this in one huge group email to everyone you know.

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Author: Karen Latimer

Karen is a Family Physician, founder and president of Tips From Town. She loves combining all she learned as a doctor with all she continues to learn as a mom of five to bring you interesting, useful and fun information on the Family Pages.

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