Email tip: Don’t add people to a thread without saying why

If you add me to an existing discussion, you have to say why. Do you have a specific question for me? Do you want my opinion on something? Are you just sharing a funny joke?

Sometimes, I'll get a piece of mail that goes like this:

From: Xxxxx
To: Aaaaa; Bbbbb; Ccccc; Raymond
Adding Raymond.

--- Original Message ---

Gee, that's very nice of you to add me, but you didn't say why. Is this a FYI? Is there a question you want answered? Often, the discussion is just "Gosh, there's this bug, person A proposes a theory, person B proposes a counter-theory, person C runs some tests and has some preliminary results, adding Raymond."

It's like "Adding Raymond" is a ritual phrase people sprinkle into a mail thread. They don't know what'll happen when they say it, they don't even have any expectations, but it doesn't hurt to say it, right? "When in doubt, add Raymond."

If you don't explain why you added me to a thread, I'm just going to killfile it.

Comments (27)
  1. Nish says:

    Unless you get a dozen of these mails each day, I can’t help feeling you are overreacting here. If someone added you to the CC list and didn’t explain why, it automatically means he or she intends that to be an FYI :-)

    [In my experience, that’s rarely why people do it. -Raymond]
  2. c says:

    What do you do to killfile the thread?  A nifty Exchange rule, or manually delete further replies?

  3. Rob says:

    It’s good luck.

    My cousin Fred CCed Raymond on a thread, and his project released on time, sold 2 million copies in a month, and made the whole project team fantastically rich.

    My co-worker Jane failed to CC Raymond on a thread, and a week later her computer was eaten by wild dogs.

    You can’t be too careful about these things.

  4. Dan McCarty says:

    Maybe they did it because Xxxxx was in cahoots with Aaaaa and Bbbbb to get mentioned on an OldNewThing blog post.

  5. Chris Miller says:

    That’s a pretty good rule to live by.  When I first read it, it didn’t really click.  Then I realized that I do it to my boss all the time.  

    Usually there’s a good reason for him to be in the loop, but it does seem like common courtesy to explain why he’s been added.

  6. Jon Peltier says:

    You know why they do it, don’t you? It’s because Everyone Loves ….

    Okay, I’ll stop.

  7. required says:

    Nish is right. General "etiquette" type thing is: if you are in the "To" you are expected to take some action, and if you are CCd then you are being "kept in the loop".

  8. gkdada says:

    @Nish and ‘required’, you are guilty of what Raymond complains about frequently: Not reading the post before commenting. You can clearly see that Raymond is in ‘To’ list rather than ‘CC’ list – without a mention of ‘what action he is expected to take’.

  9. microbe says:

    Killfile? So Raymond is running Linux. :-)

  10. coldacid says:

    At least Aaaaa, Bbbbb, Ccccc, and Xxxxx are co-workers or at least professional contemporaries. What recourse do you have when its your own relatives forwarding inane things without giving any good reason?

  11. Mihai says:

    Explanation: Xxxxx argued with Aaaaa, Bbbbb, Ccccc for a long time.

    At some point he got fed-up and brought the secret strategy: "I will add Raymond to the argument.

    If he does not answer, it means I am not saying something stupid, so it means I am right." :-)

    So, if you don’t read/answer, you might endorse and idiotic idea :-)

  12. Mikkin says:

    I agree 1000%.  Tell me what you want me to do, or don’t expect me to do anything.  Tell me when it needs to be done, or don’t expect it to ever happen.

    Same principle for meeting requests:  Tell me what the meeting is expected to accomplish, or don’t expect me to show up.

    I have way more important things to do with my time, like commenting on Raymond’s blog.

  13. Dave says:

    I have the same issue with the bug log.  If you are going to re-assign the bug to me, leave me a comment about why you are doing it.  I assume that my coworkers have spent some time looking at the issue and could share whatever they learned looking at it…

  14. Haha, this happens to me a lot too. My rule: if it isn’t obvious to me (from reading the last couple of messages in the thread) what I’m being added for, it’s just an FYI I can safely ignore :)

  15. Shog9 says:

    Heh, read that twice, still thought, "what’s he complaining about? And look, he forgot a linebreak between the To: and CC: lines – Chen’s getting lazy!

    Then i read more carefully… :doh:

    I suppose, if it’s a bug, you could always Reply All with a prediction that the bug is caused by an interaction between the tester’s body chemistry and Rogue Solar Winds.

    But then, they might actually believe it…

  16. boxmonkey says:

    That drives me nuts as well. Especially since email messages are threaded in reverse chronological order nowadays. Add me to the thread, don’t tell me why you’re adding me, and then expect me to read from the bottom up to get some context? I don’t think so.

    Unfortunately my boss’s are often the culprits here…

  17. boxmonkey says:

    bosses. sorry.

  18. Honestly, I’m astonished that Raymond even reads his mail.

    I’ve seen the "Raymond effect" many, many times, it’s as annoying as it sounds.

  19. Jim Kane says:

    why dont your split your Rss feed to non-win32 and all-Win32.

    I’m really interested in your win32 knowledge but not so much in email policy.

  20. Ross Bemrose says:

    Well, you should just assume that they added you because Everyone Loves Raymond. ;)

  21. Mike Dimmick says:

    Raymond is clearly the Magic Ingredient which will solve all your problems without you having to do a thing. Just Add Raymond ;-)

  22. Rick C says:

    Jim Kane, it’s Raymond’s blog; he’s writing for himself, not for you.  Cope.

  23. C says:

    Maybe they think it’s funny that such a non-issue obviously bugs you … so much that you whine about it to the world on your blog. How ridiculous.

  24. Igor says:

    How many of you gets more than 100 emails a day?

    Just reading 100 threads would make my head spin and of course I would like some context served instead of being piled up to the throat with it.

  25. TM says:

    Thank you! So I’m not the only one with this problem.

    I ignore these mails too. And this often gets me into troubles:

    sender:"why didn’t you reply my email?"

    me: "well you didn’t say you wanted a reply.. "

    sender: "you’re rude. "

  26. Vijay says:

    Excellent point! I can’t believe I’ve been doing that for years without giving it a second thought.

Comments are closed.