1. Is a reply really needed? Do the intended recipients need to hear from you? If not, don’t reply.
  2. Do you have something new and meaningful to say? If not, don’t reply.
  3. Are you upset, distracted, or in too much of a hurry to get the message out of your inbox to give it much thought? If so, wait until later, and either take the time to compose a more considerate response, or decide that a reply is unnecessary.
  4. Is the sender expecting a reply from you, and if so, is this reasonable? If so, don’t put off replying too long — you don’t want them to worry needlessly or to have to follow up with another message due to your lack of response.
  5. Is this the latest reply in the thread? Scan all messages in your inbox before replying to a previous reply. This will prevent threads from getting out of sync, with different replies in different messages.
  6. Which is more appropriate — replying to all, or replying to just the sender? If you reply to all, will that be appreciated by all recipients? If you reply to just the sender, will the others miss out on an important reply? Think about this carefully, and choose the better option.
  7. If you reply to all, is it likely that many of the recipients will be annoyed? If so, don’t do it.
  8. If you choose to add or drop recipients, will those added or dropped appreciate it? If not, don’t add or drop the recipients — leave the original distribution list alone. And make sure that any attachments previously included in the thread are re-attached for the benefit of the new recipients.
  9. If you are being asked a question, can this question be answered in a community or enterprise social network (ESN) so that others can answer and benefit? If so, suggest to the sender that they post in the most relevant community or ESN group, and answer them there, or copy the question to that community or group, answer it there, and then send a link to your reply to the sender.
  10. Is this message a long back-and-forth exchange which could be done better in a phone call, meeting, instant message chat, or ESN thread? If so, move it there.
  • Stating that they never signed up for this list, often angrily
  • Asking why they were sent the message
  • Asking to be removed from the list
  • Asking others to stop replying to all, often in a patronizing manner, with no sense of the irony of replying to all in the process
  • Saying “Me, too”
  • Ignore and then delete each reply, repeating until the storm subsides
  • Create a rule to send all replies to the trash folder
  • Reply only to the sender (NOT to all) asking them to recall/remove/delete the original message
  • Don’t add anyone to an email distribution list unless they specifically request it
  • Use the BCC field to avoid exposing the email addresses of the recipients and to prevent reply to all
  • Use opt-in channels instead, such as subscriptions, Enterprise Social Network groups, and activity streams
  • Acknowledge your mistake
  • Apologize and promise not to do so again
  • Recall the original message
  • Remove anyone who requests doing so from the distribution list you used
  • Use a different channel (with opt-in) to distribute the message




Knowledge Management Author and Speaker, Founder of SIKM Leaders Community, Community Evangelist, Knowledge Manager https://sites.google.com/site/stangarfield/

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Stan Garfield

Stan Garfield

Knowledge Management Author and Speaker, Founder of SIKM Leaders Community, Community Evangelist, Knowledge Manager https://sites.google.com/site/stangarfield/

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