Email Done Well #2: Reply to All

An Open Letter to the people that push “Reply to All”:

What is your problem? Why did you just do that? Why did you feel compelled to push “Reply to All” and let all 624 people on the mailing list that you have another commitment and can’t attend the get-together next Saturday?

Do you really think we care about all the little nuances of your personal life? If you feel the need to tell 624 people about your other commitment, why not start a Twitter account and start telling the world there?

Why can’t you just push “reply” and let the sender know? Why clog up 623 other mailboxes with your insignificant ramblings?

The open letter above would accomplish little except to start some type of flame war or daisy chain of reply-to-all defenders with their Lay off Jackie, she’s busy, that was mean… defense strategy. Let’s get real a second here. More than likely you’ve been on the receiving end of some reply-to-all cluster at one time or another. It happens frequently. It happens at work when someone retires, is promoted, or quits. They send out on of those “it’s been so great to work with you” emails and the reply-to-all black hole begins. Why does this happen? In my opinion, the problem lies more with the sender rather than the reply-to-all button pusher. Let me explain.

This is another case for the use of the bcc: (blind copy) feature. Let’s say you have 624 people on a mailing list and you’re sending a message about a picnic in the park for your group. There’s nothing wrong with placing those 624 email addresses into the bcc: field. There are several advantages:

It shortens the header in the message – so if your recipient prints it, they don’t have 2 pages of 624 email addresses before the message.
It secures your mailing list – your recipients only see your address and theirs, which prevents the temptation to invite 623 people to see what progress #624’s made in Farmville.
Most of all, should any of your recipients REPLY or hit REPLY TO ALL, it spares 623 other people the annoyance of dealing with #624’s response.
And please, for the love of Pete, use bcc: if you plan to ask for responses. You’ll be glad you did – it will eliminate all those “me too” responses.

So, dear sender, do us all a favor and start using bcc:. And dear recipients, you’re not off the hook – please do everyone a favor and stop hitting REPLY TO ALL, unless of course, there’s a really REALLY good reason to reply to everyone. Nine times out of ten, there’s not.

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