How to Respond to "Clever" Forwarded E Mails

Do your coworkers forward you inane emails that are (slightly annoying but) clever enough to warrant a response? Don't fall into the "LOL!" trap - there's a better way!


  1. 1
    Recognize your audience. If the email in question came from someone who sends two or three of these things a week (you know who you are!), then don't invest too much into the response. Etiquette and classical learning theory dictate that unless you truly find the item interesting or amusing, you shouldn't reply at all.
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    Be a little bit cranky right at the beginning -- it can work wonders. When you get the first time-wasting email from someone, send them back a polite email saying, "Please take me off your joke forwarding list. I don't have time right now to read jokes, inspirational messages, etc., and I'm worried that I might overlook your important emails." The person will email back in a huff saying that:
    a) they thought you'd enjoy it;
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    b) they rarely send this kind of thing, but this one was really funny.
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    However, they will think twice about doing it again, and if they do, just repeat your response, using the same language as before. If you don't mind being firm, you'll cut your junk email down considerably. But you must use self-control and never admit that anything was funny, or that you even read it, or they'll start right back up again. And obviously, YOU must never send junk emails if you don't want to receive them from others. But if you do want to respond ...
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    Evaluate the context. Was this email forwarded to you for any particular reason? If so, a prompt and personalized response is key. This step is particularly important as a failure to respond to a early-April email forward spurred by a conversation in late January could result in hurt feelings.
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    Look for an easy way out. Oftentimes, email forwards have their own built-in responses: simply pick a point mentioned in the text. Copy, paste, sign, send - and you're done! Never forget an extraneous exclamation point, to prove your enthusiasm and gratitude. (An alternative to this method is mentioning your favorite part of the email forward.)
  5. 5
    Keep your cool. Semi-funny email forwards can be amusing, but they're never quite necessary. Keep this in mind, and you already have the upper-hand - you are cooler than the sender (who went out of his/her way to placate you with said whimsical nugget).
  6. 6
    Google it! If you still haven't managed to formulate an appropriate response, try Googling the title of the email. Most likely, you'll find a related topic that may spark a great come-back.
  7. 7
    When in doubt, talk it out! Still can't think of anything? Nothing seems right? How about you approach the sender in person [gasp!] and follow up? No doubt your facial expressions and body language will make up for the marked lack of cleverness. A pat on the back, though, might be taking it too far.


  • If the email was forwarded to you by your boss, none of the above applies. You should probably just go home and never come back, because you'll simply never be able to think up a good enough response, and once you do send one, it will haunt you forever (or at least until you think of a better one, which you will send from your recently-fixed laptop over the weekend and then finally be able to sleep).

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Categories: Interacting with Colleagues | Email and Instant Messaging