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Reply vs. Reply All vs. BCC: The Ultimate Flowchart For Not Annoying Everyone

Three weeks ago my manager introduced me to a well-known marketer.

And needless to say, I was excited. But I had this little problem — I didn’t know the proper email etiquette on how to handle the introduction.

  • Should I reply only to the respected marketer?
  • Or should I reply all?

Well, it turns out I should have done neither of those.

And if I did, I’d be annoying the hell out of my manager. And these are his own words:

If there’s one thing I can’t stand, it’s people who don’t know how to handle an introduction email. I’m either left in the dark or I’m caught in the middle of an endless email thread. - Brian Balfour [Click To Tweet]

Here were the potential wrong outcomes:

  • By replying only to the marketer, my manager wouldn’t know I followed up. And now it’s this weird, lingering email unknown to any closure.  
  • By replying to all, my manager would now be stuck in this useless, never-ending email chain. And now he has to (1) mute the conversation or (2) ask to be removed. Either way, it’s annoying.

So what should I do?

I can avoid annoying my manager by BCC’ing him in a response email.

So here’s how I now handle introduction emails from now on:  

Re: Neville < > Scott

Hey Neville, 

Thanks for the introduction Brian! (moved to BCC)

Neville, I'm happy to meet you. I'd be happy to move forward with ... [rest of email]

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Okay, easy. But what about every other situation? 

  • A new employee being introduced to your team. Do you reply to them or reply all to everyone on the thread?
  • Your team is planning an event. Do you reply your thoughts to the organizer or everyone that will be impacted?
  • You have a specific question to ask in a thread, but only one person specializes in this field. What now?

These scenarios are when the lines get blurred and we’re not exactly sure what to do. That's why we built the following easy-to-reference flowchart for quickly understanding when to reply, reply all, or BCC.

While we hope this flowchart was helpful, we recognize that proper email etiquette when it comes to responding to messages is something that irks us all.

Help us make email inboxes a better place everywhere by sharing this flowchart

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