SERIES: Email Diseases: How they affect your life and how you can avoid them (Issue 1: Reply All Syndrome)

In my professional life as an administrative assistant, I see a lot of email.  And I mean a lot of email.  Tons.  I’ve seen all manner of badly written email.  SHOUTY CAPITAL LETTERS.  the perpetual lowercase user.  The Forgetter of Punctuation.  Let’s not forget individuals who do not care how a word should be used grammatically, or how it should be spelled; if it looks good, or perhaps is one of those words favored by that particular individual, even if it has nothing whatsoever to do with the context of what they are writing, they will use it.

Today, I shall touch upon something that, if I am being truthful, annoys the crap out of me.  Something I am certain you, fellow email user, have either encountered or have (GASP!) been guilty of.  Frankly, as email users, we are all guilty of this from time-to-time, but the ramifications…well…the ramifications could be at least embarrassing, at worst, damaging, and always annoying.

The REPLY ALL Syndrome

So there you are.  You’re buckled down.  You’re focused.  You’re organized and getting stuff done.  You are feeling productive and your day is moving along very nicely.  You receive an email which has been sent to…for the sake of this argument…over two hundred recipients.  You do your due diligence, open the email, read the information contained therein, and think hm…looks like they forgot to include the date on which this event they’re telling us all about is going to happen.  (I’m making stuff up, just stay with me for a bit.)  Just as you are considering your reply, another email pops through with the same subject.  You think hm…looks like someone got to it before I did; let’s see what they say.  You open the new email, observe that the responder has come to the same conclusion that you did (the event date is missing) and further, has taken the liberty of responding not only to the original sender of the email, but also to everyone on the original distribution list.

This secondary individual in this example (we’ll call him The Responder) has a disease.  It is called The Reply All Syndrome, or RAS, for short.  It’s contagious.  And it spreads like wildfire.

In the blink of an eye, two more emails hit your in-box in response to the original email notifying you about the event.  Rapid fire REPLY ALL.  And quickly, three more.  Each email saying essentially the same thing, “What is the date of the event?”  Now, not only has your day been interrupted once (the original email) but before you could say “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious” your day has been interrupted seven more times.  And it’s only just beginning.  Pretty soon, you get one brilliant responder who decides that it’s up to him to respond to everyone to ask everyone to please discontinue Replying to All.  It is at that point where you, who were so productive and focused earlier, are now totally distracted to the point of considering slamming your head into the nearest hard surface, wall, whatever.  Full-on Face Plant on your desk out of sheer frustration.

We’ve all been there, ladies and gentlemen.  And unfortunately, we’ve all been guilty of it, too.  However, there is a difference between accidentally hitting the Reply All button and doing it on purpose.  Let me give you a hint: If everyone on the original email absolutely must receive information which is vital to their continued existence or to the subject matter at hand, then yes, by all means, select Reply All.  If your response is based on a feeling – for example, you feel you should let everyone know that the date of an event was missed – please, for the sake of all that is good and organized and free-flowing in this world, respond only to the original sender!

You could respond to the original sender with something like Hey – you may have already gotten this several times, and I apologize if my email is just one of many, but I wonder if you realize you neglected to include the date of the event?  If you would please let us know when said event is to occur, I sure would appreciate it.

OK – maybe not exactly like that.  But wouldn’t you much rather receive an email response such as the example above, even if you have already gotten several, than over a hundred Reply All responses?

There is a cure for this disease.  It is called Conscientious Attention to Detail or CAD, for short.  CAD is not something that comes naturally for humans.  It is something to which we need to aspire.  We are born with a natural immunity, if you will, to CAD.  CAD must be actively practiced, on a minute-by-minute, day-by-day basis.  It must become habit to become an effective cure for Reply All Syndrome.  Unfortunately, in today’s society of instant gratification, CAD is rare.  Texting, truncating words to fit within a certain character limitation, or simply a gradual (and sometimes not-so-gradual) slide away from proper usage of language is prevalent.  Therefore we must be diligent!  We must be attentive!  We must constantly consider how our actions (or non-actions) are going to affect others!  But again I say, this instant gratification society is also a “Me” society.  How many of you have said, “Well, it (whatever it is) doesn’t affect me so therefore why should I bother?”

I think I have just made my case.

SWISH! Score one for Tangent.

CROSS POSTED: …Off on a Tangent

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