Automatic Reply

Dear colleague on sabbatical,

I hope you are enjoying the time with some relief from teaching. For many of us with small kids or working spouses, traveling for extended periods of time is not an option. But even an at-home sabbatical is more than welcome, as it helps us catch up on all the papers that have long been awaiting submission, and maybe we even try to learn something new. So with all my heart I wish that you make the best of your sabbatical.

What I don’t understand is the need for your automatic reply email message. Every time I send you a  new email, I get the autoreply that your response may be delayed because you are on sabbatical. Then of course I get the actual response from you pretty soon thereafter. We have some projects together so we email each other a lot, which means I have received this automatic “on sabbatical” message hundreds of times since September. It’s really  REALLY getting old. I don’t understand the need for this message in the first place — it’s not like you are somewhere without electricity or *gasp!* broadband internet — you are down the hall, doing work pretty much the same as always, responding to email as promptly as ever. The only difference is that you do a little less teaching and perhaps a teensy bit more travel.

So please, for the love of IMAP, don’t contribute to the endless stream of spam that clutters our mailboxes 24/7 and turn off the completely unnecessary goddamn autoreply. Otherwise, I will have to resort to walking to your office every time I need to talk to you, and we’ll see how you like that.




  1. I think that email replies should be subject to a rating system, a bit like how you can rate Amazon reviews. If somebody gets too many negative ratings, a Predator drone or Terminator robot (depending on institutional resources) is automatically dispatched to your location.

  2. That’s the beauty of working in Africa. I CAN do these autoreply emails ’cause there are times when I really don’t have internet or electricity. Confession though, I always say that I’ll be off of the internet longer than I really will be, and then just don’t respond to most everyone until I am mentally prepared.

  3. I always say that I’ll be off of the internet longer than I really will be, and then just don’t respond to most everyone until I am mentally prepared.

    🙂 That’s the only reasonable way!

  4. This is actually not your colleague’s fault, and rather the fault of her institution’s e-mail system. A proper auto-reply implementation only sends the auto-reply once to any given e-mail address.

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