How to recover from a 'Reply-All' blunder

Senders can use a few little tricks to avoid shipping out an accidental reply

How to recover from a 'Reply-All' blunder

At some point in our professional lives, we’ve all been caught in that dreaded “email storm”.

It begins when one recipient deliberately hits Reply-All to a group email and other staff chime in, setting off a silly – if not annoying – email thread.

It’s a different story, though, when the sender accidentally shares private information with an unintended distribution list, or leaves an embarrassing detail in what should otherwise be a professional-sounding company missive.

These are the perils of modern workplace communication.

David Pogue of The New York Times recently compiled his readers’ Reply-All horror stories and found some “devious dodges” people use to “avoid reputational ruin”.

If, for instance, you’ve made an embarrassing mistake in a group message, send the correct version four times so as to draw recipients’ attention away from the incorrect one, a reader recommended.

In some cases, you can try to “pivot into humour” by asking an office friend included in the list to respond to the group with a funny remark such as, “Great story, thanks for the update,” to lighten things up, another reader suggested.

If you prefer to use a more straightforward approach, you can simply send another Reply-All to say you’re sorry for the mistake, others said.

For good measure, senders can use a few little tricks to avoid the Reply-All blunder:

  1. Disable the Reply-All button whenever necessary and if your email service allows it.
  2. Always enter email addresses last and double-check your list of recipients before sending.
  3. Install an email plugin that delays the send-out for about a minute after you click “Send”.
  4. If you’ve already sent the wrong email, recall it immediately – that is, if your recipients use the same email service as you.


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