When do you use Reply to All on a mass email where numerous contacts are shown in the To: field? In most cases, you don’t use Reply to All — you only reply to the Sender.
Reply to all is tricky in that there is a difference if all the contacts know each other. Or if the Sender irresponsibly added all their contacts regardless of whether they know each other.
The last thing you want to do is breach others’ privacy by unnecessarily exposing contact’s email addresses to those they don’t know.
Reply to All Only if All Matters
Unless you know your reply is necessary for everyone in the To: field to see, you need to think twice when it comes to business emails. Doing so will reflect that you understand everyone’s time is valuable by not sending information that may not apply to them.
Senders and Reply to All
If you don’t want someone hitting Reply to All and sending their comments about your email to everyone you sent it to, use the BCc: field. Unless everyone in the To: field knows each other, you need to use BCc.
Protecting your contact’s email addresses from exposure to those they don’t know is vital. And, by doing so, you protect them from getting responses from your contacts that they don’t know.
This courtesy is worth extending. However, if you do not make this effort, you need to acquire a taste for humble pie. Get ready to apologize when your contacts email you because they have been emailed directly by those you’ve exposed them to. Worse if it is spam or a cold-call attempt.
Recipients and Reply to All
Even when you know some or most people on the list — only reply to the Sender. Because the Sender displayed all those email addresses in the To: field does not mean you follow suit.
Nor does the visibility of those addresses give you permission to email those contacts outside that particular email thread. If you do not know these contacts, how can you assume they need to know or are interested in your specific input?
Yes, discretion is key based on the topic and urgency at hand. However, rarely will there be a topic that your reply will be relevant to everyone involved in the conversation. If you are unsure, play it safe and reply to the Sender only.
Then, let the Sender determine if or to whom your input should be shared.