Your Out of Office Message Stinks

Wow, your out of office message stinks.

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As an email marketer, every time I send out a letter, I get a chance to peruse the “out of office” and bounce replies. Some of them are so amazing.

“It’s our busy season.” <- wait, so you're not going to reply to a prospect because you're busy for an ENTIRE SEASON? Why would I take advantage of your company's offerings.

“I’m away at the beach.” <- while I laud your honesty and lifestyle, lie to me. I'm at the office.

“If you need this, do ____. If you need this, do ____. If you want pizza, press 4.” <- or something like that. I get it. It's helpful. But holy cats. You must be one really busy jack of all trades.

My Ideal Out of Office Message

If I had to craft the idea message for a business or professional who’s out of office for some duration of time, it would read like this:

Subject: Away from __ until __ and not checking (or limited access) to email.

Body: I’m out of the office from ___ until ___ and so won’t likely respond until a short while after then. If your matter is urgent, contact this (one) person, but otherwise, I’ll reply to you by ___.


Beyond that, I wouldn’t do much that’s funny or clever or witty or especially overloaded. Most people see the “Out of Office” at the beginning of a subject line and click delete without reading the body.

Your Mileage May Vary

There are probably some outlier reasons to have more or different versions of an out of office. For most of us, however, I think we’re just worried that we have to cover every base, or that people will be put off by your inability to respond at the speed of light. For the first, remember that this is just email and life will go on. For the second, do you want customers or clients that need immediate responses to any little email? (Rob and Ron, don’t listen to me. Yes, I need immediate responses!)

One Last Thing

If you’re using your out-of-office to tell people that you’re slow to reply, why? You’re highlighting a weakness. Instead, just reply when you can. The world will understand. Or they won’t. But it’s not yours to worry about.


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