Common out of office email mistakes

Lawrence Jones

Friday 21 August 2015

As we get ready to leave for our annual summer holidays, most of us don’t really give much thought to our out-of-office messages. Get it wrong though, and it can cause serious problems.

According to Chris Meredith, CEO of, your message should be “simple, clear and helpful”. And yet, so many of them aren’t.

We look at some of the most common out-of-office mistakes and how you can avoid them.

The non-existent reply

If you’re a super-powered entrepreneur, there may be no such thing as a holiday. For the rest of us, the first lesson is to actually set one up.

Research in the UK found that 58 per cent of office workers said they felt irritated if people hadn’t written an out-of-office reply. In fact, these same people said they wouldn’t want to do business with people who took annual leave and failed to leave a message.

Lesson 1: always leave an out-of-office message.

The indulgent reply

You may be excited about your holiday, but spare a thought for those back at home who are still working. One of the most annoying out-of-office faux pas is the bragging message.

Designed to make the reader jealous while you’re relaxing on a beach somewhere, your colleagues will be covering your work and your customers may not be interested, so keep it to yourself.

The comedy reply

Humour is a particularly individual thing and perhaps best left out of the workplace. Sure, there are some funny out-of-office replies, but most people should give comedy a wide berth.

If you feel the need to write a joke, then take some advice from the professionals. But again, our advice would be to steer away and save your jokes for someone who will appreciate them – which in reality may only be yourself.

The incomprehensible reply

When a translation request was sent to a member of staff at Swansea Council, the reply was swift and immediate. The trouble is nobody then checked whether it made any sense.

The rule is, if you do business with other countries or speakers of other languages then make sure your out-of-office can be read by all.

The poorly written reply

People buy from people, but they don’t buy from people who can’t spell. That’s the lesson from businesses across the world. Spelling and grammar say a lot about you and your business. If you’ve gone to the trouble of writing an automatic reply, it’s worth running it through a spellchecker too.

An out-of-office should be simple, clear and straight to the point. Avoid these mistakes and you’ll be fine. Ignore them, and you may not have a job to return to.

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