Tech Talk Tuesday: Reply vs. Reply All

All email programs give you the ability to respond to a message by clicking either reply or reply all. The difference between these two options only matters when you are just one of multiple recipients of an email. If you’re the only recipient of an email, it doesn’t matter whether you click Reply or Reply All, but if you’re one of the multiple recipients, it makes a huge difference.


Reply will send a response only to the person who sent the original message.

Reply All will send a response to every person listed in the original message’s “From,” “To” and “Cc” fields. This includes every person in a distribution list, such as “All Lutheran Hillside Village” or “All Care Center Administrators.”

Consider the Recipients

Always look at the recipient list to ensure that only the people who need to be copied on a message receive your reply. It is good practice to click Reply All and then delete unnecessary addresses when you need to reply to only a few of the original recipients.

Say Something Useful

It is perfectly OK to Reply All when you are capable of providing a definitive answer to a question that will benefit everyone on the recipient list. For example, if a concierge sent an email to all other community office staff asking if anyone has an extra toner cartridge, it is a good idea to use “Reply All” to say, “Yes, I have one, and I will drop it off in 30 minutes.” This stops everyone else from digging through the supply closet. However, there is no benefit to replying to the group simply to say, “No, sorry.” Unless you have something useful to contribute, avoid using Reply All. This includes other non-directive responses, such as “Thanks,” “Congrats,” or “Good work.” Unless it is useful and applicable to all recipients, do not use Reply All.

Take Preventative Measures

“BCC” stands for Blind Carbon Copy, and can prevent recipients of your email from replying all. When you send an email and BCC someone, their name will be hidden from others receiving the email, and will not be included in reply all communications. This can be useful for things such as promotion announcements. Simply put the rest of your team in the BCC field and the address of the co-worker being promoted in the To field. Then, if any of your team reply all with “Congrats!” it will only go to the original sender and the co-worker being congratulated.