Reply Vs. Reply All

by Marinka on September 26, 2011

Today, I turn into an educator that I always knew I could be and share some wisdom with you.

This summer we already mastered riding an escalator, so there’s obviously no stopping us now! (Until we get to the end of the escalator ride, that is!)

Let’s begin!

Situation One:

Oh, look!

You got an email!

Congratulations! You got the email because you are popular and people like you.  Good going, you!

Let’s take a closer look at the email.

It’s from your kid’s baseball coach!  And you are one of the 20 some people copied on it.  Fun! You’re part of the team.

What’s this?  The coach is telling you the time of this weekend’s game.  And he’s writing that if your kid cannot attend, to please let him know.


Well, your child certainly would like to attend, but your spouse is out of town this weekend and you have an enema scheduled for the exact time of the first pitch.  This looks like a conflict situation and the little slugger will have to sit the game out! What’s the best way to let the coach and only the coach know?

Press Reply. Because no one but the coach cares if your kid will be there. Even if he’s the reincarnation of Joe Dimaggio.

Situation Two:

Let’s say this time the coach sends an email asking everyone to let the team parents know what dish you will bring to the team dinner.

You have been perfecting your hot dog casserole that you plan to scoop into individual cups for effect at the dinner. It would certainly be awkward if someone else brought the same dish! What’s the best way to prevent that?

Answer: Reply All. So that everyone can see what your reply is.

I know that this is overwhelming information and a lot to process in one sitting. But think of it this way, when you respond with a “Reply”– which is one word– you are replying to one person only.

When you choose “Reply All”–which is more than one word–you are replying to ALL the people who are on the email.

I hope that this demystifies this tricky issue that so many seem to struggle with. If you have any personal tips that have helped you with this problem, please share them!

One year ago ...

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{ 26 comments… read them below or add one }

Tinne from T and T September 26, 2011 at 7:03 am

Could you please make a video-tutorial. It would come in handy…


Stephanie Smirnov
September 26, 2011 at 7:17 am

It’s unfortunate when you don’t know the perpetrator of the unnecessary “reply all” that well because there’s nothing better than inflicting your own “reply all” of snark to take him/her down a notch publicly.


September 26, 2011 at 8:35 am

Thank you for this tutorial. Sending it to my PTA. Did you know that Nancy from the Hawthorn subdivision has a weekly pedicure scheduled for 9:30 on Wednesdays? Apparently it’s “written in stone” and she “simply can not miss it”.


susan September 26, 2011 at 8:37 am

This little lesson could have saved many in my large organization countless moments of embarassment.
And others countless hours. Period!


Anna Lefler
September 26, 2011 at 8:40 am

Is it possible to add the sound effect of a shotgun being cocked to this post?

Thank you.


Swistle September 26, 2011 at 8:40 am

Wait, I don’t get it yet. I need more funny examples.


Anna Nonamus
September 26, 2011 at 9:28 am

Sometimes, it’s more fun to see the awkwardness of random people’s responses. Other times, it’s more fun to stab oneself in the eye.


September 26, 2011 at 10:15 am

At my old company, someone mistakenly sent an email to the entire global office (hundreds of thousands of us across like 50 countries) about a pizza party in the break room. Then came the flood of “Sorry, I won’t be able to attend” emails. Then people from other countries writing in their native language. Then people writing that they didn’t understand. Then people replying to stop hitting reply all. Then people replying “YEAH!” Then people replying just for the thrill of having several hundred thousand people read their email. Then the comedians came out to add to the joke. It was annoying, then funny, then annoying, then hilarious and then annoying again. Like a Family Guy joke. My favorite was the HR person, three days later explaining the mistake. And then the person from the Paris office who replied — “FINI”.


Megan September 26, 2011 at 10:41 am

So what you’re saying is that I shouldn’t hit “Reply All” when giving details of my colonoscopy to my son’s teacher in explaination of why I can’t be room mother?


Brittany (BrittanyandTahn) September 26, 2011 at 10:53 am

Thank you. THANK YOU.


September 26, 2011 at 11:32 am

I only have one tip for this very scenario. And here it is. When you are in a book club and there is one person in said club who goes out of her way to make sure that everyone else knows how irritating she finds it when people ‘reply all’ unnecessarily, make sure you ‘reply all’ EVERY SINGLE TIME an email is sent out for the soul purpose of pissing her off. Because it’s fun. Even if that ‘reply all’ email only says “ok”.


September 26, 2011 at 2:38 pm

This drives me nuts but group text hurt my feelings the most. I think we need a police state. Text or email eighteen random people ‘so cute’ in response to a photo and off to smartphone/email prison. See you when you’re rehabilitated.


Tonya September 26, 2011 at 2:39 pm

I still don’t understand. I’m pretty sure that “Reply All” is there because everyone on the list wants to know what I’m up to. I’m that important.

Now, how do I send this comment of mine to all your readers?


Meredith L.
September 26, 2011 at 3:13 pm

I’ve been saying for years now that “Reply All” should be a privilege one must EARN, not a right given to just anybody.

Also, people need to learn how to use the BCC field on their emails.



September 26, 2011 at 3:44 pm

How is it that people don’t understand this yet? I don’t get it. But I know tons of people who have no clue.


Margaret (Nanny Goats)
September 26, 2011 at 6:30 pm

I’m going to go out on a limb here and guess that these examples come from personal experience?


September 26, 2011 at 7:31 pm

My personal tip is that there are subtleties to the coach scheduling email that should only be attempted by advanced users of Reply All.

For example, say the coach has emailed the team to say that tonight’s game may be rained out, and you should all keep checking the league site to confirm. If YOU check the league site two hours later and find out that all of tonight’s games are canceled, it is thoughtful to Reply All with this information so that everyone else doesn’t have to navigate that ridiculously badly planned site to find the weather number and call for themselves. It is also thoughtful to email “Thanks for the head’s up!” to the person who sent out that email so that you didn’t have to make the trek through league-site-land yourself.

Hitting Reply All for the “Thanks!” is, however, both unnecessary and annoying to the other parents who now have it shoved in their faces that THEY are not the Good Samaritans of the team parents. Unless you are in a competition for EXTREME Good Samaritan 2011, in which case you could Reply All with the message, “I think I speak for all of the other team parents, when I say thank you for getting that information for us all and sending it out.” This, however, is generally considered excessive and probably indicative of some secret bribe you are in the midst of trying to orchestrate with the coach. Stop trying to get your kid the best field position, already!


September 26, 2011 at 7:33 pm

PS sorry for my accidentally excessive italics.


Tonya September 26, 2011 at 8:44 pm

It’s kind of like your yelling…but politely.


Julie McGuire
September 26, 2011 at 8:05 pm

I cannot even begin to tell you the horrors of pressing the wrong “Reply” button. The primal scream that made its way out of my body after a sensitive matter was accidentally sent to my child’s entire PTSO mailing list was alarming. Sounds of childbirth sounded like classical music compared to that horrible cry. Thanks for the reminder.



Angie [A Whole Lot of Nothing]
September 27, 2011 at 1:21 pm

Could you draw this up for the visual learners? Thanks.


September 27, 2011 at 2:48 pm

This was amazing advice, that is much needed for some.

Now please explain when you use BCC versus CC. I think this is something a lot of people in the workforce have somehow not been informed of.


anymommy September 27, 2011 at 5:51 pm

Could I please send my father to your email etiquette classes? New one forming soon, right?


September 27, 2011 at 11:53 pm

I am a member of an email distribution list called “Westside Moms,” whereby you can ask questions of the group or schedule playdates, etc. At least 50 times a week, the dear mommies have conversations and include the entire group. Last week I got an email that read, “I miss you” directed at someone else. I have considered unsubscribing but for every 50 stupid fucking email that has nothing to do with the group, there is one valuable one that I may learn something from. How do you think the mommies would take it if I emailed them this post?


Lady Jennie September 29, 2011 at 4:08 am

I’m with Swistle’s comment up above.


YoMamaMorris September 29, 2011 at 7:54 am

Reply All Abusers should only be permitted to fax or telegraph. Love this post.


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