When Should You Send Mass Emails?

When is it appropriate—and not so appropriate—to send mass emails?

Trent Armstrong
4-minute read
Episode #116

In the world of email, there are few practices that can be as damaging or annoying as mass emails. I'm not talking about spam emails. I'm referring to the photo of the kitten your Aunt forwarded to you and three-hundred of her closest friends, or the awkward email you delivered to everyone in the office when you accidentally hit reply to all.

When Should You Send Mass Emails?

In discussing mass emails in general, it's necessary to start with the basics and build from there. With the advent of the computer address book, it has become far too easy to add every single email address you have obtained over the years to one email and blast out a staggering amount of correspondence with a few mouse clicks. However, just because we have that option doesn't mean we should take it. Also, the mere fact that someone has given you his or her email address is not an invitation to flood their inbox with content.

It takes time to answer even the most non-essential emails, and time is very important whether you are running a home or a business. Taking valuable moments to weed through non-essential emails can ruin a productive day.

When Should You Forward Emails?

Forwarding email is not evil in itself. Forwards become a problem when they are sent without personal sentiment in mind. Before you click that button to forward a funny email you just received to all your email contacts, take a moment and think about the content. Is it an email you need to send to someone's work email? Is it something that everyone needs to see? Or would it be better to  select a few of your friends who might find it particularly interesting? Once you've put on the brakes, take a moment to write a personal note in the email like, "Hey! This made me think of you." Suddenly your impersonal email blast has the potential to be enjoyed by a few instead of deleted immediately by everyone.

What if you are the one who is on the receiving end of the mass forward? When you are getting far too many forwarded emails, politely call or email the culprit and calmly explain that you don't look at any emails without a personal message. It's okay to do this--even if the culprit is your mother. I had occasion to take this kind of action not too long ago. My friend understood my feelings and now only sends me emails he knows matter to me.

When Should You Use Reply to All?

Of all the features of email, the one that can be the most destructive is the reply to all option. A typical scenario is when a perfectly innocent email goes out to a group, and the reply—that was just intended for one friend-- included a snippy comment. The person accidentally clicked the reply-to-all button and sent their impolite thought to everyone--at which point they were fired or at least greatly embarrassed. Though these kinds of situations are generally mistakes, it is never polite to purposefully make derogatory comments about someone, especially not in a reply-to-all email.