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Responding to Email: Is Messaging Back Always a Good Idea?

Wondering whether you should reply to an email? Learn which situations call for an email response and when messaging back may not be such a good idea.

Bianca J. Ward
Bianca J. Ward
Writer
Published:
August 12, 2021

Wondering whether you should reply to an email? Learn which situations call for an email response and when messaging back may not be such a good idea.

Electronic mail, or email, is a quick and convenient way to send a message to another party. But sometimes that other party isn’t so quick to respond – which can be frustrating, at best, for the sender. Of course, the receiver may have a good reason for not responding to an email. Then again, he or she may just not know proper email etiquette.

Whatever reason email receivers have for not responding to an email, they’re not alone. Many email messages go unanswered. While not messaging back likely won’t be disastrous, it can cause problems or negatively affect a relationship. On the other hand, choosing to reply to an email might, in some situations, be a bad idea.

Here are some guidelines for responding – or not – to electronic mail messages:

In short, you should respond to most email messages, especially those from family, friends, acquaintances, and business associates. Doing so is common courtesy and shows respect. And don't wait to respond; do it as quickly as you can. Responding promptly will benefit both you and the sender.

An email reply also lets the sender know that you received his or her email message. Even if no questions were asked or no information is needed by the sender, a friendly acknowledgement is in order. If you took the time to open and read an email message, taking another 30 seconds or less to respond won't hurt.

An email response doesn't have to be a well-crafted masterpiece, but it should follow a few basic etiquette rules:

  • Always include a salutation and signoff
  • Answer the question or address the comment
  • Be clear and concise
  • Pay attention to spelling, punctuation, and grammar
  • Avoid acronyms and emoticons
  • Don't write in all capital letters, as this may be interpreted as yelling
  • Forego unnecessary attachments, which add clutter to a mailbox
  • Use the email reply option – it's easy and captures the whole conversation

Email Etiquette up Close

Post all contact information on your web page in plain view so all customers will be able to view it without clicking through several pages. This is important if a customer has questions and wants to get in contact.

Proper Responses

Answer all customer email queries within 48 hours maximum. If the business owner fails to reply promptly many customers consider this very unprofessional business practice or just plain rude.

Never respond to angry, threatening emails with more aggressive behavior. Most professional business people would probably delete the message and block the address with their email program. Or, simply let the aggressor have the last angry word. This will prompt an immediate end to the war of words.

Never send or respond to email messages in all CAPITALS. This is considered rude, and very unprofessional. All capitals look LIKE LOUD SCREAMING TO MOST RECIPIENTS!

Always spell-check your messages before hitting the send button. Why risk a bunch of typos turning off a potential client? Most email programs have a self-contained spell check program. Always use it.

It is amazing how many online business owners will answer a customer's message with a dozen affiliate links attached to the bottom of the message. This aggressive marketing tactic is prone to backfire and annoy customers. Smart business people know how to use their affiliate links without annoying their customers. When answering the customer's question they work the affiliate link into the answer. For instance, if the customer asked for more information about a product, they simply add a link to the product so the receiver might learn more.

Promotional Messages

This happens far too frequently. A customer sends an email query to the business. The business owner responds with several dozen auto-responder messages promoting their products. Even products the sender did not request information about. Many business owners online see this as a great opportunity to bombard people with their promotions. This method often flops because the average receiver responds by blocking messages after a few unsolicited emails.

Customer Complaints

Handle customer complaints promptly. Have a system in place to answer emails several times a day. Often, all that is necessary is a short reply with the required information.

Signatures

Finally, use your signature line with care. Don't clutter your closing signature line with a dozen affiliate links. Most receivers find this promotion method annoying, spammy, and such methods only lessen your professional image. Use the information here to keep your business email messages professional.

Situations That Favor Not Responding to an Email

Although email replies are called for in most situations, there are times when not responding to an email turns out to be the best action. Spam is one example. Responding to this unsolicited junk mail is not a good idea because it can cause viruses and the proliferation of more spam mail. But there are other situations where email replies can cause even more harm, such as responding to a negative or inflammatory email known as a "flame".

If you feel you must reply to a flame, wait until your emotions are in check so your response will be calm and civil, unlike the senders. At all costs, avoid getting into a heated battle online that could drag on – and drag down everyone involved.

Another situation where it's better not to respond to an email is when it makes more sense to reply with a phone call or in-person, such as when the sender asks for confidential information when an answer is urgent, or if an email reply would require a lengthy explanation.

Sometimes, choosing not to respond to an email is a good way to end an email conversation that has run its course. Having the last word might be self-gratifying, but if it adds no value to a conversation, it’s not worth the time and effort. Ending a dead conversation is nothing to feel guilty about, either. The other party will likely be glad you did.

Finally, those who are cc'd on an email don't need to reply to the sender and shouldn't be expected to. If you are bcc'd (blind carbon copied), there's even more reason not to respond. Since the main recipient doesn't know you received a copy of the email, an accidental "reply to all" could create confusion and bad feelings for the others.

As simple as responding to electronic mail may seem, not everyone does it. Sometimes it's okay or even wise to ignore an email, especially when messaging back can lead to trouble. But most email messages, like the people who've sent them, deserve a friendly, courteous reply – and one that follows proper email etiquette.

Written by
Bianca J. Ward
Writer

Bianca J. Ward used to be an HR manager, but now she is a professional essay writer at EssayWriterFree where she provides people with qualitative works. Besides, she is a passionate photographer and traveler who has visited 52 countries all over the world. Bianca dreams about creating a photo exhibition to present her works to others.

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