Work Smarter, Not Harder, on Reply All Email Threads

by Meg G. Anderson | Luminary Works


Do you often find yourself in the middle of Reply All email threads? With multiple people responding, confusion can quickly set in if your peers don’t follow basic communication best practices. Clarity goes out the window when senders do not specify who is responsible for action items, and poor communication results in even more emails and wastes valuable time.

Stay productive by following a few best practices that are especially important on Reply All email chains:

  • If you’re the original sender, specify if the email is an action document or an information document. Actionitems or FYI? Knowing more about the typeof email will help the recipients understand its purpose. It also indicates whether responses will be required or if the recipients can simply file away the email.
  • Address a specific person when you reply.This simple practice makes it easy to see who is responsible for action items, outstanding questions, etc. This is especially important if you have a group of coworkers who aren’t familiar with each other’s roles—or if you have outside partners, freelancers, contractors, etc. Remember, wasted time equals wasted budget.
  • Use formatting to your advantage. If you need to address more than one person, start each paragraph with the person’s name. Bold it and highlight it in yellow so that they don’t accidentally skim over the request.
  • Include deadlines.Otherwise, you can expect yet another email. Go ahead and include the date in your original request along with any other relevant details.
  • Encourage productive collaboration with your coworkers.Early in the email thread—before things get out of hand—remind your colleagues about these simple tips and ask that they use them so that the group can work smarter, not harder.
  • Spare the group unnecessary emails.Ifyou respond simply to thank the sender for the information, don’t Reply All. Do the same if you have a question that applies only to the sender but not the rest of the group.

One more idea to consider when it comes to Reply All threads. Call out the first signs of confusion and offer alternatives. It might make sense for the group to meet in person or via conference call. Oftentimes, all it takes is a quick chat to sort out the situation and get everyone moving down the right path. Remember to send a recap email afterward.

Learn More and Prep for Your CAP Certification

Learn more business writing tips like these at the upcoming IAAP CAPstone conference, March 18-20, 2019, in San Diego, California: I’ll be leading a session to help you prepare for your CAP Certification and improve your business writing. Whether you’re freelancing as a virtual admin or working at a law firm, manufacturing operation, art gallery, or another employer, you’ll leave San Diego with new skills you can use immediately!

About the Presenter

For more than 15 years, Meg G. Anderson has been passionate about helping brands spread their mission and market their expertise through a variety of career hats, including copywriting, web design, project management, and internal communications. She founded Luminary Works, an editorial services firm, with the goal of helping small, medium, and family businesses create stories worth telling and messages worth sharing. A native of Mississippi, Meg is a graduate of Emory University and Georgia State University’s Executive MBA program. Learn more at

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