Unexpected university email chain is lesson in etiquette

November 28, 2012

This week, a new complaint has eclipsed our problems with classes, the weather and our social lives. A new phrase overcomes our vocabulary, looms in our minds, and we suddenly hear it everywhere: “Don’t reply all.”

The email chain that has invaded our inboxes seems never-ending. At first, we all found it amusing that a student, presumably by accident, sent an email to what appears to be nearly the entire NYU community, instead of just one administrator. But amusement quickly turned to annoyance when many of the recipients took it upon themselves to enlighten the original sender — and many more hastened to inform those students that it was not necessary to reply to all in messages that were themselves sent to everyone. That’s not to mention the students who decided to capitalize on student Matt Wiseltier’s mistake to use the thread to troll the nearly 40,000 unintended recipients with apparently purposeless pictures of movie stars.

We have all experienced abuse of the reply all button before this; people frequently use this option in error when really only one or a few recipients of an original email needs to see the response. It is a small annoyance, and most of us just ignore unnecessary emails and move on. But when several of these messages arrive in our inboxes daily, and the use of reply all is so terribly ironic, it becomes a bigger problem.

The now-infamous email thread is many things: It’s funny, it’s frustrating; it’s  a conversation topic and a reason for our school to appear in a less-than-flattering light on Buzzfeed. But it is also a learning opportunity. We hope that the next time one hesitates with the cursor between reply and reply all, he or she will remember this incident and choose the option that will not frustrate nearly everyone receiving his or her missives.

A version of this article appeared in the Wednesday, Nov. 28 print edition. Email the WSN Editorial Board at editboard@nyunews.com.

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