All of us have at least one reply all nightmare story. Mine story took place a couple of years ago when a teacher sent an email to all of the staff in her building to let them know that she brought brownies for them. This single email from a well-meaning teacher generated 87 replies and each reply was sent to everyone in the building. Everyone received the emails that thanked the teacher from bringing the brownies. Everyone received the emails letting the brownie baker know they would love to eat one, but they better not because they are on a diet, sensitive to gluten, or allergic to nuts. It was an annoying waste of time for everyone who received the original email. So what can you learn from my painful experience?
There are definitely times when the reply all button is the best option. For example, if you are working with a group of people on a project then it is expected that you reply all to help keep everyone in the loop. But if you receive an email that is sent to you because you are on a mass email list for your building or district, you should ask yourself if there is a need reply to everyone who received the original email. Many times when emails are sent to large groups they are “FYI” only and the sender does not expect a reply. If you feel the need to reply and the only person who needs to see your response is the sender, then select Reply instead of Reply All.
There are some steps you can take to avoid Reply all blunders. If you use Gmail, you can change the default response setting to Reply instead of Reply all. You can also enable the Undo Send lab which allows you to recall a message up to 30 seconds after you send it. When you send messages to groups of people you can use the bcc (blind carbon copy) field which will make it impossible for recipients to reply to other who received the message because they won’t be able to see the list of recipients. If you would rather not use the BCC option, then consider adding “FYI” to the subject line so people know a reply is not necessary.
Applications for Education
It’s important to talk about email etiquette with students. Our students live in a world where email is not their primary form of communication.