Stop Gumming Up People’s Inboxes

Unquestionably, email is the most requested topic of my business etiquette seminars. As well as being concerned by how grammatical and proofreading mistakes reflect negatively both on individuals and the company, managers also recognize the problems caused by the sheer volume of email each employee receives. I routinely hear people bemoan the fact they have literally hundreds of emails to wade through each day. One of the most exasperating causes of the volume of email is the profligate use of Reply All.

Just today a client sent me an example of an annoying email. The email congratulated and welcomed a new employee. It must have had at least fifty email 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 email instead of just to the new employee. The result: legions of unnecessary emails gumming up people’s inboxes.

There are countless examples of misuse of Reply All. It happens to me on a regular basis. In one case I receive an email 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 of the group, including me, are subjected to these completely unnecessary emails. Yet, I have to open each email because some actually will contain valid information. Unfortunately, that means I end up opening and scanning those “Thank you” emails as well. Ugh!


One of my pet peeves concerning Reply All is when a person sends an email 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 their status.

The Reply All button is located too conveniently right next to the Reply button. So it falls to each of us to make a concerted 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 email to receive your response.

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