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Avoiding the ‘reply allpocalypse’ and other email etiquette reminders

Lynette Rambo | November 15, 2016 

Today’s Question of the Day by Govtech.com is: Who caused the last major ‘reply allpocalypse’? Answer: an IT contractor for the UK’s National Health Service (NHS).

You may have noticed the NHS has been trending on Twitter this week. They are the latest company to experience a “reply allpocalypse” when an IT contractor accidentally sent a test email to 1.2 million colleagues. As if that wasn’t bad enough, some recipients of the email hit “Reply All” in their request to be taken off the list – resulting in an estimated total of 186 million needless emails sent and the crashing of the NHS server.
Twitter posts re the NHS email send

To Reply All or Not?

It’s easy to make this mistake – especially when we’re in a hurry to respond to an email. After all, the “Reply” and “Reply All” buttons are right next to each other.

Email etiquette dictates that it’s never best practice to reply to everyone unless what you have to say significantly relates to everyone and the topic at hand. So, save a few virtual trees and just reply to the person who actually sent the message in the first place. And, PLEASE … Never use this button to CYA or e-Tattle on a coworker or colleague. Doing so just makes the sender look petty.

Email Etiquette Reminders

In light of this latest email catastrophe, now is a good time to remind everyone of a few email etiquette pointers.

  • The subject line is important! How many times have you seen an email come from a friend or colleague with a blank subject line and wondered if it was Spam? The subject line should succinctly identify what you are writing about.
  • STOP YELLING!!! In other words, avoid ALL CAPS and numerous !!!! and ????. It gives the impression that you’re yelling at the recipient.
  • Don’t hit “Send” when you’re upset. Come back to the email later and read it as if you were the recipient. Chances are, you’ll change the words or phrasing once you’re calmer.
  • Smiley faces and hearts are better suited for messages between friends. If you’re sending an email from your phone, the emoticon won’t show up properly in the recipient’s desktop email.
  • Email is not texting. Abbreviations commonly used in casual texting – A3, NP, BRB, OOTO, etc. How many people actually know they mean “Anytime, Anywhere, Anyplace,” “No Problem,” “Be Right Back,” and “Out of the Office”? Avoid abbreviations in emails. (If you’re truly interested in all the texting “ABBRs” out there, see Webopedia’s Text Messaging and Online Chat Abbreviations list).
  • Use the Bcc. When sending an email to a long list of recipients, put the addresses in the blind-copy (Bcc) feature rather than the “To” and “Cc” lines. Most people don’t want their email addresses displayed for all to see.

HUMAN CONTACT STILL MATTERS

There are some things that should be communicated face-to-face rather than through email. The impersonal nature of the computer and email can lead people to say things they normally wouldn’t say in person. Remain courteous regardless of how you might be feeling at the time.

And, most importantly – once you hit SEND, you can’t take it back. Your message can be saved or forwarded by the recipient and anyone they send it to – or worse, splattered across the Internet for all to see. Applying the Golden Rule and treating others as we want to be treated can help ensure our words don’t come back to haunt us later.

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Lynette Rambo

Lynette Rambo | Marketing Consultant

Lynette Rambo is a Certified Email Marketing Specialist and a Marketing Consultant for the Salesforce Marketing Cloud. She has over 20 years of marketing, communications, design, and public relations experience for both small businesses and larger corporations. As a Marketing Consultant for ListEngage, Lynette consults clients on email marketing best practices, strategic planning, content creation, campaign management, and provides training and demos on the Marketing Cloud. She also works with the Salesforce CRM and connecting Sales and Marketing initiatives. You can contact Lynette at lrambo@listengage.com.