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How Reply All Works (And BCC, Too)

It’s been called to my attention that I left out an important aspect of email yesterday— reply all.

Once again, ugh. I can’t believe I have to write this post.

There is one, and only one, circumstance in which you should hit the reply all button: if everyone on the CC chain needs to see your response.

Note that I said “need.” I don’t care if you think you have a witty response, and you want everyone to see how clever you are. In fact, let’s settle this right now– you’re not witty. I know professional comedy writers who can’t seem to craft a funny reply-all message. I really don’t need to see the costume supervisor’s copypasta of a World War II motivational poster.

I never understood why this was funny.
So hilarious.

But at least these real-life Michael Scotts are trying to be entertaining. You also probably shouldn’t reply-all to an invitation to the production meeting with, “Sorry I can’t make it. My colonoscopy appointment is that morning.”

True story.

Of course, the converse1 can also be a problem. If everyone does need to see your reply, then please, please, please reply-all. This comes up most often when scheduling meetings. When you reply with the times you’re available, the sender is just going to have to forward that on to everyone else so they can check their schedules. It gets very confusing and winds up wasting time.

In truth, I can’t really blame the reply-allers. They’re just ignorant. The real source of the problem is the writer of the original email.

If you don’t want replies-all, don’t create the opportunity. BCC everyone.

This is generally the policy at most production offices now. The production office email address goes in the “To:” line, and everyone else gets blind copied. Besides eliminating annoying replies-all, it keeps everyone’s email addresses confidential. This is particularly important when the email list includes the cast; you don’t want the star’s email getting out to everyone.

One final note: if some idiot does reply-all unnecessarily, please don’t re-reply-all to tell that person to stop replying-all. You’re just making it worse.

Footnotes    (↩ returns to text)

  1. Inverse? Contrapositive? I can never remember.
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2 Responses

  1. Can we extend this rule to cell phones too?

    I can’t tell you how many times someone sends out a mass text saying they’re “looking for work” and a few minutes later, I’ll get a half a dozen replies of “copy” on my phone because some idiots reply to all. Or better/worse yet, replies that say he’ll hire him if he can shove his c**k in his mouth or something.

    True story.

  2. The BCC is a great point.

    Another email general rule that definitely applies to film is don’t email drunk, over-tired or angry, the latter being the biggest transgression I see. Over the course of a long day, and long days, little things can set you off – things that will seem trivial when you get a few hours sleep and get up in the AM. Better not to send things you might regret.

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