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Monthly Broadcast: April 2007
Ken Bowell has been using computers since 1979. He started out with Apple systems, followed by various Macs before moving into Windows in 1993. His first home computer was an IBM PCJr.
Do I really need to read this? AKA: The evils of misusing the “Reply All” button.

I got another one today: a message replying to the original sender, but sent to everyone listed in the original message. The problem is, the reply had no relevance to me at all – or anyone else, for that matter. 

I see this a lot. Someone abuses the “Reply All” button by sending the message back to everyone, but simply adding “Thanks” or “FYI” to the top of the message. Even worse is the multiple replies between one staff member and the original sender as they argue about a procedure outlined in the base message. I get a lot of “I’m in” and “Me too” messages times about 30 in response to the notice about the Secret Santa event. I have to tell you, if it’s so secret, I don’t need to know who else is in except for the person who’s name I draw.

By this point, you may be thinking I’m crabbing about nothing. You’re probably thinking one or both of the following: “What’s a few extra messages? Just delete them! 

The problem comes in when almost every communication has gone to e-mail. There are no paper memos and face-to-face contact has all but disappeared. This means a lot of important information comes into our inboxes. Some people get hundreds of messages a day as it is, without all those unnecessary ones. In addition, sometimes those replies contain a genuine correction to a procedure outlined in the original message. As a result, I can’t just delete the messages I receive without checking for legitimate content first.

All this extra mail takes away from more important business. It bogs down corporate mail systems. It annoys the staff members who don’t need to see these messages. In short, cut it out.

Unless the entire staff needs to see your reply, use the regular old “Reply” button, instead. It’s very easy since it’s located right next to the “Reply All” button.

Consider your audience before sending any message. Don’t send it to those that may not need to see it. In addition, remember that reply all sends the message to everyone that received the original message. That means, there’s no need to add your personal “FYI” or “Take Note” message to the top. We all got the message already. We don’t need another copy.

The entire staff doesn’t need to know who is interested in playing on the company softball team. Likewise, they don’t need to see the message sent back to them with a “Good job on this” message at the top – even if it’s a “good job” directed toward me.

Let’s set a new standard in e-mail usage. Don’t automatically use the replay all button. Instead, consider if your message only applies to the original sender. Even if it’s a correction to a procedure, give the original author a chance to make the correction instead of showing them up in front of the entire staff.

I don’t need to see the back and forth messages. Just send me the final outcome and be done with it.

Ken Bowell is currently a video editor for ESPN. Since 1997, he has performed various production tasks for shows like Sportscenter, Baseball Tonight, NFL Live and ESPNews. He has been working in television for nearly 15 years at both the local and network level.

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