If you're going away for a few days and plan to use an
auto-responder to answer emails in your absence, these tips
could save you untold embarrassment, not only on UKPress but
with your colleagues and friends ...
Consider this: a colleague writes to say she's leaving for
a two week holiday. It's her last email before she switches
on her auto-responder. But you left for your hols ten minutes
earlier, so it's your auto-responder which replies. Her system
is set-up badly, failing to recognise an auto-response (a
very common failure!), so her auto-responder replies to your
auto-responder, less than a second later. Your system is also
set up badly, so your auto-responder replies to hers, less
than a second after that. And hers replies. And yours replies.
And so on. An email every nth of a second for two weeks ...
or rather, until clogged mailboxes and a crashed mailserver
cause your IT manager or - worse - your ISP to close your
(or your company's) account and ban you for ever more.
Mailing List Netiquette
Before you go away, visit UKPress.org and any other mailing
lists you're subscribed to and set your subscription to 'Nomail'.
This means that you'll remain a member but won't receive any
postings until you set yourself to ' Resume mail'.
To set 'Nomail' on UKPress, log in here:
This is worth doing even if you don't use auto-responders.
It ensures your inbox won't get crammed while you're gone.
An over-full (over-quota) inbox could lose you valuable mail.
In the SUBJECT line of your auto-response:-
- make the nature of your email clear from the outset
- start with a common form of words like "Out of Office
Reply" or "Automatic Response", perhaps followed
by a brief note like "John Smith is on holiday".
These admittedly prosaic messages are used because they
work, and most mailing lists (including UKPress) have filters
that look out for them. They also let recipients know that
the email can be skipped
- avoid obscure, unclear, 'clever' or 'humorous' phrases.
These may seem warm or funny the first time but once their
recipients are seeing them for the umpteenth time, they'll
be anything but!
In the message BODY of your auto-response:-
- keep your message brief and to the point. The information
you usually need
to get across is
- that this is an auto-response
- your name
- when you're back
- who is to be contacted in your absence
- remember that recipients may read your message many times,
so don't try something that seems chatty at first but becomes
wearisome when repeated.
In the HEADERS of your auto-response:-
Your auto-response software may be managed within your office
or by your ISP. It should permit control over your email headers
or should have pre-set them correctly. However, experience
on UKPress shows that a great many are set incorrectly. It's
worth checking your headers to see if they comply with the
following - this can be done by briefly engaging your auto-responder
and examining the headers of any mail it sends out.
If you can't control your auto-responder headers, click
here for further advice.
- Set the headers to include the line:-
MAIL FROM: <>
This will stop most machines such as mailing list servers
and other people's auto-responders from replying.
The area between the <> should be empty. If the line
MAIL FROM: appears in your headers but contains an email
address, that email address should be deleted. It should
be restored when you're manually sending out emails.
The line should not be confused with
which should contain your email address, as always.
In the general settings of your auto-responder:-
If you can't control your auto-responder configuration,
click here for further advice.
- Set the auto-responder to detect, and NOT reply to emails
- "MAIL FROM: <>" (this indicates
- "Precedence: bulk" (this indicates
a mailing list or automated message)
- "Precedence: list" (this indicates
a mailing list)
- Headers or subject lines that indicate automated
- Set the auto-responder to detect, and NOT reply to, emails
NOT containing your address in the "To:" or "Cc:"
lines (such emails will most probably be mailing list
messages, press releases, newsletters or spam)
- Set the auto-responder to limit the frequency of auto-responses
to any one address, eg. one reply per address per week
A valuable tip:-
If you have the ability to set up additional email addresses
and/or additional mailboxes, it's a good idea to have one
exclusively for mailing lists. Typically, people use an address
like firstname.lastname@example.org or even an address for each mailing
list they subscribe to. When you go away, set up an autoresponder
on your main address but not on your lists address(es). This
is especially useful if you can't easily manage your autoresponder
This advice is culled from Screen-Play.net's Mailing List
Guide, which is currently in preparation.
UKPress goes to a great deal of trouble to filter out auto-responses
and "out of office" messages, and succeeds in the
vast majority of cases. However, auto-responses do occasionally
slip through because the above advice has not been followed.
UKPress apologises to list members that this can happen but
there's little we can do other than mop up afterwards, analyse
what happened and expand our filtration to take the latest
trend into account.
Where a UKPress member sends an auto-response that goes out
to the list, we will set that member to "Nomail"
and will NOT notify that member of the change: it is the responsibility
of the member to be aware of the situation and take appropriate
steps, sorting out the auto-responder and then setting UKPress
options to "Resume mail". UKPress reserves the absolute
right to unsubscribe any member at any time, with or without