Updated: Mar 28, 2022
Let's just get this straight, we're not saying that using Reply All is a bad thing. It's actually a great feature that saves you some time and helps to make sure all parties remain informed via an on-going communication thread. But... we also need to keep in mind that it can be a bad thing and cause people extra work and stress. Managing an Inbox causes work and stress, so let's look at how we can do our part to help out.
There are some best practices that we should be following to ensure that the communication that is happening is meaningful for everyone. We all know that an email thread with multiple people responding can quickly become it's own Inbox management nightmare. So what can we do about it?
After you hit Reply All you need to reassess your audience. Here are four helpful things to consider, something we call "The Four R's of Reply-All."
Write your response to the group before you make any changes to the TO and CC fields. This is going to help you better identify your audience. You might write something that is actionable, or something that is just information. Actionable items mean someone is addressed in the TO field. Informational means they go in the CC field.
Reassess Your Target Audience
This is the step where you make sure that your reply applies to everyone in the group. If your reply does not either inform someone or cause an action for them, delete them from the TO or CC field. No need to clutter an Inbox with information that is not useful.
Remap the TO and CC fields
Since you wrote your email first, you'll know who you are addressing. Anyone that you address directly or that you are creating actionable work for needs to be in the TO field. Anyone who is just being informed or updated can be moved to the CC field. You could just move everyone who's not directly addressed to the CC field, but sometimes there are teams of people who get work done even if you address an individual.
Re-imagine the BCC field
Are you worried about dropping someone from an email chain without them knowing? Time to re-imagine how you use the BCC field. It's not about copying your boss on an email so someone doesn't know. If you aren't sure about removing someone, or they need to be informed of your actions and not any subsequent follow-up emails move them to BCC. That person will see your email, and when the next person clicks Reply All they won't be part of the thread.
It's a good practice to start your email calling out anyone that you are moving into BCC field so that everyone is aware. Here is an example of how we do it.
"Dropping Clark Kent, and Bruce Wayne from thread via BCC"
These simple tips will help keep your communication targeted and on track. You'll help eliminate clutter from Inboxes, and if you teach this to other people it's going to help your Inbox too. The more you send, and the more people you send email to; the more you're going to get back in your own Inbox.
In Outlook you don't need to retype names if you are moving them from the TO field to CC or vice-versa. You can click and drag your contacts up and down.
HOW TO DO IT
We touched on using the BCC field so that you can "drop" someone from an email chain. In more recent versions of Outlook the default setting is that the BCC field is not shown. In our drag and drop GIF above you'll notice that no BCC field is shown. To get the BCC field just follow these steps when you are address an email.