Best Practices for Replying to E-mails

The way you reply to e-mail messages can have a major impact on your work and business relationships.To ensure you reply to an e-mail message appropriately, you should always

  • edit the addresses in the Cc field to ensure you copy only people who require the information you include in your response
  • update the subject line to keep the e-mail current and ensure recipients can identify what the message covers and find it easily in their inboxes, and
  • include the original thread to keep a record of all the communication that has taken place before you send a response, including the original message and any previous replies; if no thread is included, recipients may have to search for and read other e-mails to determine what you're referring to

If you choose the Reply All option to create a response e-mail, your reply will automatically be addressed to all recipients of the original message. Although Reply All is a powerful feature, it is often used incorrectly. When you reply to all, you're assuming that everyone on the e-mail's original distribution list wants – or needs – to receive your response. This often isn't the case.When using the Reply All facility, remember these best practices:

  • avoid overusing it – replying to all is only appropriate if every recipient in the To and Cc fields needs to read your response
  • Bcc recipients must avoid it, because replying to all will reveal their identity and the fact that they were secretly copied, and
  • avoid it for personal messages of thanks or agreement – you should send "thank you" and "me too" replies to the direct recipient

When replying to an e-mail message, you should edit the addresses in the Cc field to ensure your response goes only to people who need to receive it. You should also update the subject line and include the thread of the e-mail below your reply.It's important to use the Reply All feature correctly when responding to e-mails. You should avoid it especially if you were included as a Bcc recipient of an original e-mail. It also isn't appropriate to send messages of thanks or agreement to all recipients. These are better sent as personal, direct messages.