The Dreaded Reply All Email

Posted by Andy Dunscombe on Sep 25, 2015 10:02:00 AM


We've all been there with that dreaded Reply All button. Some of the scariest moments of many people's professional careers have happened right after hitting that button. The realization that hundreds, possibly thousands, of people will now see something that you intended for one person's eyes only. This is just one of many email blunders that can cause embarrassment and possibly hurt your career.

In an article on CareeRealism, author Kitty Boitnott outlines how to avoid some other embarrassing office email blunders. These include:

Never writing an email when angry. Oh, well, you can write it. Just don't push send. This is akin to the advice of (hand)writing a letter when you are upset, putting it in an envelope, and then hiding it in your desk overnight while you cool down. Although, I still suggest the handwritten letter route. It is a lot harder to accidentally write a mailing address on the envelope, adhere a stamp and drop the angry letter in the mail box than it is to push "send" in Outlook.

Avoiding using email when a phone call is more appropriate. Tone can get lost in an email. Kitty suggests using "the phone when you need to convey a message that might have an emotional undertone."

Keep your emails succinct. Lengthy emails with a lot of information can be confusing, and the person reading them might just skim through portions. Kitty recommends that if you do have a lot of information to get across, prepare the reader from the beginning of the email that everything mentioned is important and they need to read through everything.

As a little bonus, to cut down on the number of unwanted Reply All emails, I would like to propose a change to Microsoft, and all email providers in general. That Reply All button is way too easy to push:


In Outlook, Reply and Reply All are right next to each other, and the first word is the same. This is way too confusing, especially when you are in the middle of a busy day and are firing off emails left and right. Changes need to be made. How about we move things around, and sandwich the Forward button between the two Reply buttons. If you accidentally hit Forward, you can't send the email unless you fill in an address.


Or, how about a window popping up that asks if you are really sure you want to reply all.


I doubt we can ever get this implemented, but it would be a nice safety net.

While researching for this article, I came across a fun story about a Reply All email that actually helped someone's career. A few years ago, during the Super Bowl, there was a Bridgestone Tires commercial about an office worker who accidentally replied all and had to get in his car and drive around confiscating and ruining all of his co-workers' electronic devices. Turns out the guy who created the commercial was inspired by his own Reply All mistake. Check out the full story here.

Have you had a Reply All incident of your own? Share with us below in the comments! 

Related Content:

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