Career & Education

'Reply-all' annoys me!

Career Advisor

Carolyn Marie Smith

Sunday, February 25, 2018

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Dear Career Advisor:

I am becoming really annoyed with some of my co-workers' use of emails. Among the chief annoyances is the incessant use of the “reply-all” feature, especially when management sends communication to a large group and 'everybody' feels that in acknowledgement they must notify everybody else. I also find unnerving the tendency some have to copy the boss on almost every conversation. Do you think I am being picky? Are there proper protocols for the use of emails and if so, could you give some guidance please?

Yours truly,

Charles E

Dear Charles:

I have to admit that your concerns resonate with me. Certainly, in addition to the protocols of effective business communication, there are practices that should guide communication sent by way of email. For conciseness, let us categorise them as dos and dont's.


• Determine your purpose before you begin to compose an email.

• Be concise; a few paragraphs should suffice. Remain focused on the key point(s).

• Be cordial and respectful.

• Be direct. Your reader should be able to easily tell what you are asking him or her to do. For example, do you need information, review or input?

• Include a useful subject line. This should provide a synopsis of what the email is about.

• Write as if your boss is reading. Remember, emails can form permanent record and can be shared without your being notified.

• End with your name or standardised organisation identifier, which will include your name and appropriate titles, job title, company name, telephone number, and other relevant company branding identifiers or taglines.

• Respond to emails within a reasonable time. Avoid the tendency to respond by acknowledging receipt then forgetting to provide the information being requested.


• Don't mix content. Send a separate email for each unrelated issue. The request for data to complete a management report should not be in the same email as the invitation to attend the office party.

• Don't give in to the temptation to press “reply all” unless it is absolutely necessary for all parties to be aware of the contents of your email.

• Don't feel pressured to reply to everything. For example, there is no need to respond to someone's acknowledgment of receipt or respond when no further action is required.

• Don't send messages with emotional overtones. Some issues are best addressed face-to-face. A frank discussion often clears misunderstandings.

• Don't carbon copy (cc) your co-worker's supervisor without just cause. If, for example, you have not been able to get action on a request and the manager has requested to be kept abreast of the progress, then copying the boss is appropriate.

• Don't auto request “read receipts”. Doing so may be interpreted as your not having confidence that the recipient will handle the message appropriately or in a timely manner.

It might be prudent for you to suggest to your manager or training officer that this issue be addressed as part of personal development training.

All the best,

Career Advisor

Carolyn Marie Smith is associate vice-president of student services at Northern Caribbean University in Mandeville, Manchester. Submit your questions to her at




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