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  • Writer's pictureDr. Ritu Pareek

#mailfail 5: “Reply All”: An Important Yet Underrated Tool of a Mail

In a graduate program, an accidental “Reply All” email caused hilarity when a student responded eagerly to a reading request, followed by her advisor mistakenly replying to the whole group about her lack of readiness. The incident highlighted the importance of double-checking recipients and fostered a sense of camaraderie.

My students are from a technical background, the majority belong to either B. Tech. or MCA program. Taking Communication English classes with these students was always challenging because they don’t give any importance or preference to Communicative English as for them technical subjects were of utmost importance. But one incident makes them realize the importance of being careful about all the peculiar issues. In my graduate program, there was a peculiar quirk that many students seemed to forget: hitting “Reply” to the graduate listserv sent your response back to the entire group. This small detail would soon lead to a hilariously awkward situation that nobody would soon forget.

It all started when our program Director sent out an email to the entire graduate cohort, seeking students who were interested in doing a reading at the end-of-year event. Everyone received the email, including one eager student who, without hesitation, hit “Reply All” to express her enthusiasm and willingness to participate. Unbeknownst to her, her response went back to the entire group, including her thesis adviser, who happened to be one of the recipients. Seizing the opportunity to provide honest feedback, the adviser, thinking he was only responding to the program director, hit “Reply All” and wrote: “Actually, this student isn’t anywhere near graduating yet. She needs more time to work on her thesis. You might want to write back to her suggesting this, without saying I said so.”

Moments later, the entire graduate listserv erupted in a flurry of shocked and amused responses. The adviser’s accidental reply all had created a virtual storm of laughter and gossip among the students and faculty alike. It was as if a secret had been unintentionally revealed, causing everyone to revel in the unexpected transparency. Some students offered light-hearted condolences to the student in question, jokingly consoling her with phrases like, “Don't worry, we’ll celebrate your graduation in a few years!” Others couldn’t help but chuckle at the adviser’s slip-up, wondering if he realized the gravity of his mistake.

Meanwhile, the student who initially replied, unaware of the unfolding comedy, had become the unintentional centre of attention. Messages of support and encouragement flooded her inbox, with fellow students assuring her that she would indeed graduate on time, despite the adviser’s well-intentioned, albeit misplaced, remark. In the end, the incident served as a reminder to everyone in the graduate program to double-check their recipients before hitting “Reply All.” It also brought a light-hearted and communal sense of camaraderie among the students, who bonded over this comical mishap.

From that day forward, the story of the ill-fated “Reply All” email became a legend within our program, serving as a humorous cautionary tale about the perils of electronic communication and the importance of checking email recipients. Readers, “Reply All” is detrimental and breaks relationships at times, and then do you agree it is a #mailfail?


Dr. Ritu Pareek, Assistant Professor in English at Birla Institute of Technology-Mesra- Jaipur campus, has been working in the field of academics for the last fourteen years. Dr. Pareek completed her Ph.D. on the topic “Questioning of Patriarchal Narration and of Female Subjugation in Angela Carter’s Short Stories” from Malaviya National Institute of Technology-Jaipur, in 2014. She has published articles on Contemporary British Fiction and on English Language Teaching in reputed journals and has presented research papers at many international conferences including the University of London, UK, and at many national conferences at universities in India.

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