Stop the ‘Reply All’ Madness

Until the day I die, I will curse the man who decided to add “reply all” as an option for emails.

Don’t get me wrong. Some times it’s a necessary evil. Say you’re planning a dinner with friends over email. You want everyone to be able to weigh in on the time and place to meet.

Most of the time, however, you don’t need to reply to everyone who got the original mass communication.

For example, you’re having a party and sent out an email invite to 20 people. It is not necessary for any one of those people to let the other 19 know:

  • I’m coming.
  • I’m not coming.
  • Can I bring a friend who’s in town and crashing on my futon?
  • Can I bring food/beverage/ice?
  • My Aunt Karen’s best friend’s mother-in-law has an awesome recipe for roasted garlic flatbread twists I’ve been dying to try out ever since I had a red pepper hummus at my Uncle Steve’s bachelor party that sucked (the hummus, not the party, although a bachelor party where hummus is served also sucks) and when I told my cousin Melissa about it, she told me about the time her mom got drunk on fuzzy navels and had this amazing flatbread twist thing. Do you want me to bring it?

You get the idea.

What inspired today’s rant? A blogging network I’m on put out a call for volunteers to help with some of the site’s management. Since I’m trying to build up some experience in web publishing, I hit “reply” and offered my services. An email came back within the hour explaining more about what they needed. It went to eight people. I again hit “reply” and said what I’d be interested in.

As of this writing, six people felt the need to hit “reply all” to chime in on what they could do. The other person who got the email either hit the correct response button or hasn’t replied yet.

Among the “reply-all” responses were seven exclamation points, three pithy quotes in signatures, three telephone numbers, two logo attachments, two instances of egregious capitalization, two signature blocks longer than five lines (one was over 15) and one “y’awl.”

I like the idea of volunteering. I like the idea of web experience. I like the idea of getting in on site management. I have written and deleted emails saying I want nothing more to do with the volunteer effort or even the blog network if people involved can’t figure out when it is appropriate to use “reply all” and when it is not. This post may get me off the hook.

I dearly want Gmail and any other email client to come up with a prompt that asks if you really need to write back to everyone. Something similar to Google’s Mail Goggles.

And then I want a second prompt after you blindly say “yes” to the first one that asks if you’re really really sure that 14 people need to know the contents of your reply.

For the love of all that is holy, people, please, stop using “reply all.” That button is not your friend.

What’s the worst case of “reply all” you’ve received or (gasp) committed? How do you get people to stop doing it? Leave a comment.

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6 thoughts on “Stop the ‘Reply All’ Madness

  1. I feel your pain, I’ve been inundated lately, look people, I get it, apparently I’m getting it from every corner of the earth!

  2. […] Small Pond Reviews, observations, musings & outright lies Skip to content HomeAbout MeBlog RollNavigating the BlogPoetry Month ← Stop the ‘Reply All’ Madness […]

  3. I sent a private message, meant to go to a college newspaper staffer, to the entire staff. And it was a message I shouldn’t have sent to everyone. Whoops!

    1. The issue of sending confidential or embarrassing materials to a group when you only mean to send to one is a whole other issue. And another great example of why it shouldn’t be so easy to send to everyone. Yikes. I hope your private message was easily forgotten.

  4. I used to work at a health care system. People would do this all the time. They would also NOT take advantage of spell check and would not proof read to be sure it made sense. I suppose it’s ok when a lowly worker bee does it, but when the CEO of the company does it…I just don’t get it!

    1. I wonder if the refusal to spell check is from the idea that email was just a quick form of communication, when people still put more stock in phone calls or hand-distributed memos. Sort of like typos in text messages today get a pass because somehow the medium of the message changes what people expect of how it’s written.

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