Tech Talk: The Do's and Don'ts of "Reply All"


I’m launching a one-woman campaign against the abuse of the “Reply All” feature in your email. This was jump-started by an email storm following a group announcement of a dinner for the kids involved in a community theater production. This email went out to about 40 families. The dinner is being catered, so only the event organizer needs a head count–but the “Reply Alls” immediately began rolling in.

This is really getting in the way of my pursuit of Inbox 1500 (Inbox Zero being completely out of the question. Baby steps.)

Ripped from my very own, very-clogged email box, here are some real-life tips I’d like to share about the use (and misuse) of this feature. It does have its place, but you need to choose carefully.


DO use “Reply All” when:

  • There’s a potluck and you’re letting everyone know that you’re bringing your signature mashed-potato dish so there won’t be too many potatoes and no chocolate cake (because what’s a potluck without chocolate cake?).
  • You’re dividing up responsibilities for a group task.
  • You have a question about a group task or event that everyone in the email group needs to have answered.
  • Your answer will affect others’ plans of action.

DO NOT use “Reply All” when:

  • Only the host of the event needs to know how many people will attend.
  • You have a question about a group task or event that only you need to have answered.
  • You’re jumping on a “thank you” bandwagon, requiring each thanker to one-up the thankers who have thanked before. Send your thanks only to the people who need to be thanked, not to everyone who needs to thank those people.
  • Your discussion only involves one other person from the email list. Group emails are not the place for side conversations, people.
  • The email specifically states, “No need to reply to all.”
  • Your message reads:  “Precious will not be attending [insert name of event here] because we will be on a three-week cruise to the French Riviera.” Trust me. NEVER send this message to the whole list.

In a nutshell, when in doubt, DON’T.

And if you need to target only a few members of the group, use the FORWARD function and input the members’ names manually.

Have pity on your family, friends, and total strangers. Use “Reply All” sparingly.

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Copyright 2014 Barb Szyszkiewicz


About Author

Barb Szyszkiewicz is a wife, mom, Secular Franciscan, managing editor for Today's Catholic Teacher magazine and editor at Her three children range in age from high school to young adult, and she enjoys writing, cooking, and reading. Barb is a music minister at her parish and an avid Notre Dame football and basketball fan. Find her blog at FranciscanMom and her family’s favorite recipes with nutrition information for diabetics at Cook and Count.


  1. This is a big pet peeve of mine!! Thank you for writing this. I’m thinking of bookmarking it and then sending it to people who unnecessarily use “Reply All.”

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