Reply to sender reduces accidental emails to a list and makes it much easier to reply to the sender. People have to consciously select Reply All encouraging them to consider off-list discussions and replies. It avoids embarrassment  and privacy issues by reducing the risk of emailing the whole list. Plus, it is still just as easy for people to reply to the whole list using Reply All when they wish to do so.  

I’m on a number of mailing lists, most are on the jiscmail.ac.uk service. Some are configured to ‘reply to sender’ when you press Reply, where as others (most) are set to ‘reply to list’.

It seems to me that all general mailing lists should be ‘reply to sender‘ when the user hits Reply, with the email client’s Reply to All button being used to Reply to the whole List.

 

But we want to encourage discussion and don’t mind people replying to list so this doesn’t apply to us? This is no way stops this, replying to list is still easy to do, but it makes replying to the sender an option as well, it can be very difficult otherwise. With this suggestion if someone presses reply without thinking, it will not accidentally go to the whole list. A mailing list configured to Reply to List by default makes it very difficult to reply to just the Sender, especially for those using MS Outlook.

Option 1: Mailing list configured to reply to sender
  • If I want to reply to the sender, I hit Reply
  • If i want to reply to the list, I hit Reply All.
  • If I don’t think and just hit Reply, it will go to one person (rather than the whole list)
  • If I don’t have a Reply All (very very rare) I can just copy the email address of the mailing list (which is easy to find) and paste it in to the To: field, replacing the name of the sender.

Conclusion: Replying to sender and list are both easy to do, accidentally replying to whole list is reduced.

Option 2: Mailing list configured to  reply to list
  • If I want to reply to the sender I need to find their email address, which isn’t always easy (see below), and paste it in to the To: field
  • If I want to reply to list I can hit Reply, or hit Reply All, they do the same.
  • If I don’t think and hit Reply, it goes to the list, which may disclosure private information, or cause embarrassment

Conclusion: Replying to list easy to do (two different ways), but replying to sender is difficult, involves finding their email address and copying/pasting. Easy to email list by accident.

Outlook – Replying to just the sender
When I open an email from a mailing list in Outlook, the From line looks like this; (first full line at the top, click on image for higher res version)
Outlook1

 

Notice is does not show the sender, instead it shows the list, in this case the list’s name and the first part of the mailing list email address.
To see the Sender’s details I need to make the preview pane very wide (or open the email in its own window), I can see that after the mailing list email address it says “on behalf of john smith <john.smith@example.com>“.

 

To reply to sender, when a list is configured to reply to the list, I have to make the window wide enough to show the sender as above, right click the sender’s email address, select copy, and then paste the email address in to the the To: field, replacing the list’s email address.

 

At the best, this is tedious, confusing and unknown to many.
If your list is setup to Reply to list by default some people will not know how to reply to the sender.

 

Jiscmail List Owners
If you manage a Jiscmail list, you can make the world a better place:
Go to list administration > List configuration > List configuration wizard > Distribution > Reply-To = Sender.
List_page

 

 

Reply to sender reduces accidental emails to a list and makes it much easier to reply to the sender. People have to consciously select Reply All encouraging them to consider off-list discussions and replies. It avoids embarrassment  and privacy issues by reducing the risk of emailing the whole list. Plus, it is still just as easy for people to reply to the whole list using Reply All when they wish to do so.  

 

Making this change will make your list work as people expect it to. It has no downsides!

Here endeth the lesson

 

 

 

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