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7 Pet Peeves: Email Auto Replies

auto reply

It’s typically the little things that greatly impress or completely annoy.  Here’s a few of my pet peeves around auto replies – tell me yours in the reactions. 

p.s. The first was the inspiration for this post. 

Referring to yourself in the third person

The email comes from you … why does it say “Mary Smith is out of the office until Sep 15.  She will reply upon her return”.   Was it set up by her admin, is she royalty … or do the voices in Mary’s head tell her to refer to herself in the third person?  That’s more of a personal pet peeve, but I think it sets a pretentious tone.

Turn it off when you return

Add a note to your calendar if it helps you to remember, but turn it off the day you state you will be back.  There’s nothing worse than getting an email on September 10 stating “I will be out of the office returning August 5”.  August 5 … 2010?

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Send one auto reply per sender

Don’t change the setting that ensures each person emailing during your absence receives only one auto reply.  Unless everyone you deal with is obtuse, one auto reply is sufficient.  And, don’t set it up so every person CC’d or BCC’d get’s an auto reply.  It’s very annoying trying to determine why you just received an auto reply to someone you have not emailed!

“I’m too busy for you”

If you only read and reply to your email three times a day at regularly scheduled intervals and that works for you, that’s cool.  But don’t tell me about it.  “I only check my email at 11, 1 and 3” makes you sound pretentious (nobody is so important that I stop what I’m doing to read an email) or poorly organized (I have to stay on a schedule or I can’t get anything done).  Plus, if I’m your client, or a potential client it makes me think you’re not going to be available to me.

No details necessary

Be courteous and keep it short.  “I’m out of the office until September 22nd and will reply upon my return” is sufficient.  I don’t need to know (or really care) that you are at your nephew’s wedding in Hawaii.  (Actually, if you tell me you’re in Hawaii there’s a little piece of me that would be jealous.)

I need someone now!

If my correspondence is urgent, who can I contact?  Tell me.  But, don’t make me work for it “if it’s urgent, call Susan”… Susan who!  What’s her email address and phone number?   Include all contact info in the auto reply email.

Also, don’t give me 32 if/then contact choices based on the reason for my email.

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Needless replies

Please don’t set up an auto reply for every email you receive thanking me for my email and telling me you will reply soon.  I assumed as much.  You’ve just wasted my time.

 What peeves you?


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Written By

Brandie is an unapologetically candid marketing professional who was recently mentioned on BusinessWeek as a Top Young Female Entrepreneur. She recently co-founded consulting firm MarketingTBD. She's held senior level positions with GE and Fidelity, as well as with entrepreneurial start-ups. Raised by a real estate Broker, Brandie is passionate about real estate and is an avid investor. Follow her on Twitter.



  1. Ginny Cain

    September 9, 2009 at 4:04 pm

    Great reminders about auto respond messages. Love that you called out the people who let you know that they only answer email at certain time intervals. It does sound prententious and WAY too structured for my taste. Always good stuff coming from you!

  2. Dan Connolly

    September 9, 2009 at 11:43 pm

    Actual voice mail I heard the other day, my best rendition:

    “Well hello and thank you so much for calling. I devote 100% of my energy to each of my clients and I never interrupt a consultation to answer the phone. So if you will leave a message I will call you when I am finished.

    Also I spend every day from 9:00 am to 11:00 am cold calling looking for people to buy my listings. So I return my calls from 11:00 to 12:00 and from 4:00 till 5:00 in the afternoon.

    Thank you so much for calling me and I so look forward to helping you with all of your real estate needs. Please leave a message and make this the very best day of your life.”

    that seriously peeved me….

  3. Brandie Young

    September 10, 2009 at 3:00 am

    Ginny – Awww, thanks. Coming from you that means so much!

    Dan – No!!! Seriously? Did you give that person feedback on your opinion? Setting expectations is good, but that’s taking it just a tad too far…

  4. Joe Loomer

    September 10, 2009 at 8:00 am

    What Peeves me is the calls I get via the office number (not direct) trying to make me pay to be on the first page of Google when that’s how they found me in the first place.

    Oh – and the wahoos that wait through your intro message just to hang up and NOT leave a voicemail after 1 second.

    Navy Chief, Navy Pride

  5. tomferry

    September 10, 2009 at 2:17 pm

    Brandie- I hope everyone reads this one. You nailed it!

    Dan … WHOA is all I gotta say!

  6. Katie H

    September 10, 2009 at 2:29 pm

    It peeves me when people go on an extended vacations and DO NOT turn on an autoresponder

  7. Ian Greenleigh

    September 10, 2009 at 3:58 pm

    You’ve inspired me to create a hilariously entertaining autoreply. It’s the modern equivalent of the funny voice mail. I’ll offer one here, and then others should leave their own!

    “Hello, this is Ian’s computer. Good luck getting his attention, because he’s probably reading his comic books right now. *sniffle* I’m sorry…it’s just, he neglects me too, you know? I haven’t had a virus scan in weeks! I feel dirty. He could at least defragment my hard drive once in a while, just to show he cares. Sometimes, honestly, I wish I was never assembled. Will you be my friend?”

  8. Brandie Young

    September 10, 2009 at 4:17 pm

    Hi Joe – *note to self – don’t call Joe’s vm and hang up* (that is annoying). Or worse .. when they don’t hang up and you have minutes of background noise … you can’t help but listed …

    Tom – thanks.

    Ian – Hysterical! I double dog dare you to create that. Well, maybe not. Do your clients have a sense of humor?

  9. Ian Greenleigh

    September 10, 2009 at 4:19 pm

    Well, maybe if you triple dog dared me…

    My clients might laugh, but they’d probably think I’m a little strange. You try it!

  10. Brandie Young

    September 10, 2009 at 4:25 pm

    Ian … My clients KNOW I’m just a bit off center – interestingly, they like me for it! I don’t think anything trumps a double-dog dare, but would need to defer to Lani on that one.

  11. Baltimore Homes

    September 10, 2009 at 4:51 pm

    I am grad that someone took the time to spell out the obvious. I can’t tell you how many email replys I still get from friends and business associates stating “I will be out of the office from ____ to _____”. Thats all fine and good just when it is September 2009 and the auto reply is from June 2009 is sorta get old!

  12. Ken Brand

    September 10, 2009 at 10:40 pm

    Two Things:

    1. If you use words like “obtuse” again, the Warden will throw your butt in hole for 30 days

    2. I have a non-email pet peeve, actually I have a catalogue full, ummm, anyway, it’s annoying when people call on the phone and don’t say who they are, they just start talking – It’s not until half way thorough the convo I snap to who it is. And when the person announces who they are using only their first name – unless you’re Cher or Mick or Bono or Oprah or Prince or Madonna or Hef, please use your full name, I know more than one Mary, Debbie, John, etc. Sheezzz

    And yeah to yours too.

  13. John Miller

    September 10, 2009 at 11:39 pm

    What is so bad about being structured and pretentious?

    Dan, I am going to use that vm message – I love it. It shows I am actually doing my job – prospecting. It also tells people that I pay attention when I am face to face and shows I sincerely care about them.

    Anyone want to comment on how annoying it is when someone looks at there ringing or vibrating phone while you are having a conversation with them?

    Rock on

  14. Missy Caulk

    September 11, 2009 at 7:22 am

    I hate those things…I tried it many years ago and it was annoying to people plus all the spammers knew they had a valid email address .

  15. Mona Gersky

    September 11, 2009 at 9:30 am

    Great responses.

    I share a “peevette” with Ken Brand. The immediate talking by the caller without announcing their name and the use of only first names. Yikes, the brain can get overworked trying to catch the little clues to the caller’s identity.

    I did once call someone’s cell phone and heard the BEST voice recording…”Hi, this is the voice mailbox for _________. Sorry you’ve gotten my recording, but my cell phone has fallen to the bottom of my purse and I cannot find it fast enough to answer your call. Your call is really important though and I’d love to call you back soon. Please leave your message at the tone.”

    I also agree with Joe Loomer…hate those recorded incoming phone calls!

  16. Brandie Young

    September 11, 2009 at 12:28 pm

    Ken – Thanks so much for always chiming in with such great thoughts. It took me a while to “get” your obtuse comment … ha ha.

    Re: callers not identifying themselves – YES – that is annoying! I wonder if we assume with caller ID that it’s known? Although, I must admit, I do often announce myself as just “Brandie”. Is there more than one?

    Missy – Great point about the spammers!

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