If you have to “reply to all” via email, you’d better make 100% sure that you use it correctly. When I take over the world, the “reply to all” button will be disabled until a certification course is passed.
Here are some examples of when NOT to reply to all:
1) An email goes out to the whole firm (or a large distribution list), but it looks like it should have just gone to one person. Do NOT reply to all saying that it probably shouldn’t have come to you. Every person who gets your reply will think that you’re an idiot. And they will be correct.
2) You don’t recognize every single one of the email addresses on the to: and cc: lines. I guarantee that Chrissy’s old accountant doesn’t care that you won’t be attending the Pampered Chef party. As a matter of fact, after you’ve replied to all, the accountant won’t attend the party because she will assume that all of Chrissy’s friends are morons like you. And she’s a big spender… so you pretty much just robbed Chrissy of like $50 in commissions. Nice job.
3) If you’re replying with something sarcastic, mildly offensive, and/or self-promoting. That just won’t end well. Ever.
When can you reply to all? Here you go:
1) When you and your seven bestest friends are emailing about where you’ll be getting together this weekend. (And you’d totally group text, but stupid Maya doesn’t have an iPhone, so her replies go to everyone individually, and that’s just so infuriating…)
2) Group/team projects at work. It’s a good idea to keep everyone in the loop. In this case, more is better, and people can just delete what they don’t need.
The moral of the story: when in doubt, don’t. Just don’t… unless you want everyone to think you’re a moron, you want to write Chrissy a check for $50, and you never ever want to live it down.