It’s interesting to watch the difference between users of “Reply” and “Reply All”. Quite often it’s obvious that most users of email give almost zero thought to which of the two they are going to use when they respond to an email. They are on autopilot.

So, when should one use “Reply All”?

– When the response is of interest or need to a majority of the recipients.

Simple. So, if you are a “Reply All” by default, then this means that pithy comments about a your favorite sports team, or a personal thanks to a mass goodbye email, or scathing comments about a spelling error are best either sent with a “Reply” and just to the original sender…or just not sent at all.

Now, there’s a flip side. Those who default to the “Reply” button when it’s clearly a group conversation in progress. How do you know when to “Reply All” ?

– When the response is of interest or need to a majority of the recipients.

Now, in the “Replay” defaultist world there is a different set of thoughts that need to come to play. If the email were instead a conversation in a group setting, would you whisper your response to one person only? Wait until the group broke up and ask your question? If yes, then by all means, just “Reply”….but if others need the information you are asking for…then use “Reply All”.

Mundane things that we do every day…but there is no default answer and 1 second of thought can save a hundred individuals a second of “delete”.

Posted by M. Ittleschmerz in Cyber, Training & Education

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  • Don’t forget the issue of Blind Copying people. They too sometime hit reply to all, leaving others to wonder just how they got involved in the conversation. Best to either openly copy them or forward the message to them after sending it.

  • I always enjoy the rush of adrenaline that comes in that millisecond right after you clink “send” and that little voice in your head goes, “Dude, that was ‘reply all,’ you know that right?”

    Yes … much fun … much fun ….

  • YN2(SW) H. Lucien Gauthier III

    +1 CDR…


    Seriously, checking my email feels no different at home than walking out to check a mailbox. Who REALLY relies on email any more?

    Want a ‘flat’ organization–ditch email. Adapt a platform that allows real collaboration, and above all else, a picture of the person and their contact info beyond the email address.

    I lived and died by email deployed. Everything I did aboard ship had to be completed in that far-off land called PAPA Det. In sending my worth through the aether to PAPA Det I had to email with civilians whom I have never met, nor known before.

    It is impossible to truly develop a working relationship via email, impossible.

    So when things would hit the fan, it was entirely too easy to not hold one’s tongue. That civilian was an old Senior Chief (ret), and the frocked YN2 got an ear full from his Chief…


  • YN2(SW) H. Lucien Gauthier III


  • Fouled Anchor

    @Lucien – “It is impossible to truly develop a working relationship via email, impossible.”

    I disagree. I have very effective working relationships with many people via email. The one that comes to mind first is a beneficial business relationship that has continued for ~3 years. He and I have never once met face-to-face, and I don’t believe we’ve ever even spoken on the phone. Put the right people in contact in any format and they will make it work. Now leadership by email is a whole different animal…people rely on the medium for the wrong reasons very often.


  • Lucien has a point. When I was at a 4-star staff saddled with passive aggressive working styles that email enables in spades (especially when personnel numbers are in to four figures), I quickly developed the reputation of being “that guy” who would reply to an email by showing up 5-minutes later knocking at your door saying, “I read your email and … ”

    Very effective way to get what you want. Email passive aggressive types live for caller-ID as well. When one staff weenie tries to work via email only, and you get up and move your bulk to the other side of the building to share O2 with someone – the walker wins every time.

    The only way to effectively counter a “Sal” on your staff is to draft an email and then set it up to transmit at a later time automatically. Yes, the “was he really working at 2am?” email tactic – one I have used now and then myself. Kind of like the app on my smart phone that goes straight to voicemail without ringing your phone – that way I can make my point without running in to the danger of having to actually talk to you – ….. wait ….. am I giving away too many Staff Weenie Ninja secrets here?

  • @Fred Fry – Don’t forget about when people accidentally leave people on an email chain that shouldn’t be. For a better example a certain manager I know accidentally left a customer on the email chain as they were seeking how to handle them.

  • Fouled Anchor

    CDR, I need that smart phone app.

    You are correct about the email passive aggressives. I used to have a LCDR who would task me via email. Whenever I received an email from him, I would scoot back in my chair, peek around the puka wall, and say “I got it.” He was literally six feet away from me but would rarely speak.


    Tasking people by e-mail who are sitting right next to you is not always just being passive aggressive. If you are using task functions, sending a tasker by e-mail and getting a response are critical to get the task onto the list for tracking. Now not saying something to the individual outside of the e-mail, that is passive aggressive. Better to send an e-mail and then, if it is sufficiently non-routine, take a walk to discuss with the individual being tasked so there was no confusion.

  • EWB

    USNVO – I prefer to reverse the order, especially when I’m cc’ing a boss. Discuss the task with the individual first (and iron out the questions), then send the email as a reference for everyone.

    YN2 and others – I love email, but mostly because it’s more effective than post-its at reminding me what I need to do. I hate voicemail and any attempt by the “they” to encourage me to use technology instead of walking over to someone’s desk. Really, it’s so much more effective when you can see the look of confusion pass over someone’s face and explain it away, pull out a pen and draw a diagram, or go off on tangents that are ultimately helpful to your cause. I’m not a fan of email leadership or tasking.