Why You Should Never Forward An FYI Email

Why You Should Never Forward An FYI Email

Keeping your email inbox under control is a constant battle for everyone. Don’t make life harder for other people by incessantly forwarding emails without explanation. Simply adding ‘FYI’ is a cop-out.

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The Smarter Admins blog highlights a number of common mistakes with email forwarding. The one that jumped out for us was the importance of not simply forwarding a message with ‘FYI’ tagged onto it without providing some context:

Click forward, insert “FYI”, ass covered… right? Wrong. If the information contained in that email is important for a person, take the time to debrief them on it. Don’t expect them to scroll through the last twenty emails to try work out what is going on.

As well as keeping your co-workers happy, this is good karma: the more people who do this, the fewer unneeded messages everyone will have. Hit the post for more hints on when using the forward option is a bad idea.

3 Email Forwarding Mistakes and How You Can Avoid Them [Smarter Admins]


  • This advice is ridiculous. If someone is getting an email that doesn’t have an action attached it, then it should be taken for granted that it’s optional to read – it’s for THEM to decide whether it’s worth figuring out whether I would send them only useful information, or to just delete it sight unseen because I have a habit of spraying useless crap around the office.

    If the information contained in that email is important for a person, take the time to debrief them on it.

    I don’t have time to screw around with summarising work for others, and I don’t expect anyone to summarise them for me either. I can read, I don’t need to be spoonfed my own work.

    (ninja edit to add the quotes)

  • Two tips for Outlook users relating to Forwarding and Replying:
    – Forwarding a mail when angry can be a bad thing. Use the “Don’t deliver until” feature in Outlook and set it for say, 1 hour ahead. If you still feel the same way in an hour, that’s cool, you’re mail gets sent. If you cool off and decide against sending it, you’ve got time to stop it going.
    – Replying. The No-Reply-All Outlook Add-in is genius. Stop mail trails in their tracks. If you’re regularly on the receiving end of those circular email discussions with ever-growing distribution lists you can send out a “we’re wasting a lot of time for a lot of people here, book a meeting and we’ll sort it in ten minutes” type mail and improve productivity. Can also be used to stop people forwarding a mail. Recipients can of course just copy and paste and start a new trail, but it can be quite effective.

  • Completely disagree. If you don’t have anything meaningful to add, don’t add anything at all. Giving the recipient more to read for the sake of it is far more annoying.

  • As per TFA, I can’t agree more with the “Don’t forward private conversations” tip. I find that a FAR MORE important tip than “don’t forward with ‘FYI’.” I have had many embarrassing moments when someone has forwarded an email chain to someone and the other person has taken it out of context. Written, documented evidence is a PITA, IMO.

    Another pet email gripe is when people Reply-All when there is no requirement. For example: A mass email goes out to a sample population and asks for confirmation of receipt. As one of the recipients I then get 25 emails from everyone saying that they received it. Seriously? Use your brain and work out who on the list needs to know that you received it…

    • @lyndonl I’ve seen that happen many times as well. Another popular one is when a blank email is accidentally sent out to a list of staff, only to have every staff member reply all with ‘WHY IS THE EMAIL BLANK????” #headdesk

  • We do this a bunch at my office, usually just after discussing a job, when info needs to be transferred or there’s an attachment that’s easier just to forward on. It works great. If some context needs to be given then that does happen, but usually just “FYI” is perfect.

    As others have said I can read the rest of the email to find out what it is, there’s no point wasting time trying to rewrite what has already been said. Also, if the original sender isn’t completely incompetent, the subject line should give enough basic context already.

  • An FYI email is essentially an email form of a Facebook Share/Like. Adding additional content to put things in context isn’t always necessary. Sometimes, yes.. but not always.

  • Agree completely with commenter “FYI”.

    I’d much rather use FYI or see below and have the person reading the e-mail from the horse’s mouth than recreate a story, with the potential of getting it wrong, especially where technical issues are involved. As a reciever of e-mail i’d much rather this approach as well.

    Sometimes I don’t even bother to read what the person has written and skip straight to the bottom of the thread to read it from the beginning to get the whole story.

    Sorry Angus but I believe you and the “smarter admins blog” are in the minority.

    • I have a rule for FYI mails that sweeps them into a folder I don’t go into.

      If the Sender didn’t target the mail at me originally, and the Forwarder didn’t see fit to either ask the Sender to add me to the distribution list or provide a summary of the salient points for me quickly digest, I’m not going to spend hours reading mail trails that may or may not contain one tiny nugget I might at some point in the future have a passing interest in.

      Same with CC’s – they either want to send me the mail, or they don’t. Sometimes people mail me and say “You haven’t replied to that mail I cc’d you on”, to which the answer is quite simple – “The mail wasn’t To me – if you wanted action/opinion/intervention then only CC’ing me was incorrect.”

      Mind you, they’re the same kind of people who complain when I decline Meeting invites that have no agenda. I’m not going to a meeting where I don’t know what the agenda is and it’s absurd of them to think that I’ll plan and prioritize my work around such an unknown.

    • @jjcoolaus
      I tend to add context/overview to an FYI email if it relates to a lengthy email conversation. Doesn’t have to be much, but depends on the clarity of the context of the original email/s. The post on my blog relates specifically from an office admin perspective and perhaps isn’t as relevant in other professions, but your comment has certainly given me another perspective.

  • FYI is useful when the originator didn’t include someone in the discussion they were supposed to and it slipped their mind. Say someone asks me to chase up the status of xyz order, I forward to purchasing who write back a novella about how xyz won’t arrive for another two weeks and don’t include the person who actually wanted to know the status in the reply, I simply forward with FYI as there is nothing more for me to say about it and they were the ones with the original inquiry as to xyz. Often I will CC the purchasing person so they realise their mistake in not replying to both of us with me as CC only (so I can ignore). There are other such scenarios, but mostly to do with procurement and stores.

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