I Loathe “Reply All”

Dear 3040 and Beyond:

Help! I’m in big trouble at work. I just graduated from college and I’m leading a really big project. I want to impress my boss, but he says my emails confuse everyone and that I’m basically doing everything wrong. I was afraid to ask what that means. I have to send out lots of complex information to the people on the project every week, so I can’t help writing so much! Do you have any advice about how to write a great email?

Signed,

New and Confused

Dear New and Confused,

First and foremost let me vent real quick. This is not just for you, but for anyone else reading this. In a large group message, with people outside of your perspective, do not hit “Reply All.” Thank you, that’s all.

Honestly, this is an extremely common issue recent graduates have when entering the business world. It’s entirely reasonable to over communicate with your new coworkers and it’s surprisingly easy to do. There are numerous important tips to reduce the flak received from emails including: leave CAPS Lock off, omit the emoticons, and including a greeting and closing statement. Colorado State University has a unique article on Netiquette that would be really beneficial to peruse. To me the three most important things to remember, especially when writing to large groups, are length, expertise, and individual scope.EmailEtiquettefun

“I don’t have time to read a novel.”

Honestly I don’t. A discussion that requires that much time needs to be scheduled for a meeting or phone call. Take into account how busy your readers are, regardless of their corporate rank. Nobody wants to spend twenty minutes reading a single weekly email, much less a daily one. It is important to keep the message brief. Include only the necessary information. Tech Republic sets a limit of roughly two to three paragraphs before moving onto a different medium of communication. I’ll be nice and give you those paragraphs plus five detailed bullet points that immediately display part of your information. This is where it comes down to your unique writing abilities. If you feel capable and have noticed no issues, go ahead and write longer emails if you believe the other parties will appreciate it as well.

“I don’t know why I’m being told this technical jargon.”

This statement can actually come from both sides of your expertise. Those peers that are not as familiar with the intricacies of the product will not understand technical words (much less their abbreviations). On the other side of that it doesn’t make sense to provide a glossary of terms for the engineers that developed the product. “So how do I translate the information to both parties so it’s understood completely?” Unfortunately it might come down to sending two separate emails delineating between complex issues and necessary knowledge. This comes back to saving you and your peer time as well. Two emails is initially more work, but hardly. Think about when each group responds and the message gets so tangle between both that everyone is getting confused. Now it takes time to re-read everything previous and create another coherent message, or you have to split the email now into different parts and possible repeat some information.

“I’m not even affected by this information.”

Now it’s time to differentiate those in your email that require this information and those that are just copied for effect. It’s is incredibly important to understand what each individual member of your team needs to know about the project. This should be talked about at the beginning and revisited over the course of the project through status meetings. To create a detailed, yet brief email it helps to separate groups of people that do not crossover information. It may seem easier to write one email to everyone, describing what different sect need to know, but not only will this upset people, become extremely lengthy, and most likely remain unread it also takes more work later on. Instead send three emails to each program with the necessary, specific information they need weekly. Forbes has an interesting article, relating to this that includes numerous other no-no’s that should also be considered.

Also, do know that these are mere guidelines. If you can write in such an effective manner that each reader is able to easily glean his
or her pertinent information, by all means show the world your aptitude. Be careful, however, and be 100% sure the people around you are actually gaining everything necessary.

Hope This Helped,

3040 and Beyond

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9 thoughts on “I Loathe “Reply All”

  1. I really like the information you included in this post. I think individual scope is one of the most important things to consider. If the email doesn’t apply to someone, they will soon become frustrated because their time is being wasted and their important emails are becoming cluttered with emails that aren’t applicable to them. In addition to them actually needing the information in the email, it is important to consider their knowledge of the subject like you mentioned. If someone can’t even understand the information, I highly doubt they will get much out of reading the email, nor will they be to pleased about reading it.

  2. You make a great point about the “reply all” syndrome. Even worse is replying to an email and actually adding people to the distro list. When respond to a mass email, I always carefully look at the distribution list and often remove people who are too senior, too junior, or have no impact into the email. I have found this to be a very useful tactic and it helps with the direction of the email. The point about targeting your audience is also extremely important. You obviously don’t want to waste anyone’s time, but even more important, you don’t want to solicit advice or input from those who have no business doing so. This, in my mind, is the real reason why you want to limit the distribution.

    Thanks again, good post.

  3. It is very true that most people do not have time to read a novel. I think millennials have a thought process that if emails don’t look long enough, it may be informal or not what the reader of the email needs so they add more than what is needed. Keeping emails short and direct help the reader find the information easy and make work efficient. Not providing jargon that the reader may not understand helps communicate the message clearly and gives the reader an idea or thought about what is going on. Making sure that the right people receive the email is crucial and can get annoying if people receive emails constantly that don’t affect them at all. Staying clear and concise in your emails and making sure the correct people receive them are essential in order to write an effective business email. Great post!

    Jake Gonzales

  4. That is so funny about reply all because in my blog that was one of the main things i focused on. I did that once myself and i could really relate to everything that you were saying. We need to make sure we stay focused when writing and email, as well as focusing on the audience. Good job!

    Austin

  5. I thought you brought up a lot of interesting point regarding emails. Although, I feel that we have slightly different views on using “reply all”. It is really important to make sure that everyone gets the correct information and in a professional manner. With that being said, reply all can be a very scary aspect if you do not know what you are doing. When I am working there are a lot of times when reply all is okay and feel that it is a very affective way to get the information across. A majority of the time we are no added to the group if we are seen as an unnecessary aspect to the group.

  6. You provide a lot great ideas in the post. The way you organize your paper is very structured. Especially the subtitles is easy for reader to read. I totally agree with you that “Nobody wants to spend twenty minutes reading a single weekly email, much less a daily one.” Yes, sometimes we even just use about 1 minutes to look at the emails. So we need to write a short and clear email makes people easily to read and avoid using some complicate term instead of use some easy words to illustrate our points.

  7. I definitely have to agree with people not wanting to read a novel when reading an email! Nobody has time for that. I think that this could relate to reading a resume. You should be able to read an email quickly and effectively without be confused and knowing what they are saying. The purpose should be clear and concise and your audience should not have to ask questions afterwards!

  8. Ben,
    I agree with many of the points you brought up throughout your blog post, and talked about many of the similar tips in my post. I like how you mentioned the importance of keeping an email clear and concise. I hate reading emails, especially if they seem endless. Great tips to the readers!

    -Aaron

  9. Hitting the “Reply All” button can be a dreadful mistake, and it is made all to often in offices across the United States. Your paragraph about “I don’t have time to read a novel” is a great one. I really agree with this point. Be quick and clear in getting your point across. If you really have to write that much, then the content probably requires more than email. You do not want to lose the interest of those reading your email, nor do you want to leave confused and staring at a massive chunk of text. This post was really well done, thank you!

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