How to Write an Effective Out-Of-Office Reply

“I am OOTO until (Date) I will return to you as soon as I can.”

I received an automated reply like this from an employee of major, recognizable company. (No, I’m not going to tell you which one.)

It came across to me as clipped. Casual. Non committal. Unprofessional even.

You probably make use of an out of office responder at some point in the year–maybe regularly. Responders are helpful. They can be a great way to leave a positive impression on the writer every time you use them, so take the C+ approach.

Be clear. State that you are out of the office until a certain date. You do NOT have to say why.  Avoid the use of acronymns. (Did any of you wonder what OOTO meant?)

Provide a contact. Give the writer an alternative contact, if appropriate, especially if you’ll be out for an extended period.

Change it up. If you use out-of-office replies regularly, change the wording so it does not become overly familiar to those who write you.

State your committment to respond. Let people know that you will be reviewing your email and that they should receive a reply by ______. (You are not obligated to respond to every email, so a good way to put this is: “I will be reviewing my email again on Friday April 10. Should your email require a response, you can expect to hear from me by Monday April 13. Otherwise, thank you for the information you provided.”)

+Plus: An out of office reply is a great opportunity to be appropriately clever, and leave a pleasant vibe.  A short motivational quote, or a unique way to say “thanks” for their business is appropriate.

Let’s re-write the example above. Instead of

“I am OOTO until (Date) I will return to you as soon as I can.”

How about:

Thanks for writing! I am out of the office speaking at a conference (near the beach–rough life I know)  and will be reviewing my emails again on Friday, April 10. Should your email require a response, you can expect to hear from me no later than Monday, April 13.  In the meantime, XYZ company appreciates your business very much. Thank you for trusting us with it.

Other pointers:

  • If you choose to be clever, make sure you are appropriate to your industry. (A marketing pro may write differently than a lawyer.)
  • If on a vacation, it can paint a positive image of your company by saying, “XYZ company believes in employee wellness, so I’m currently enjoying a vacation.”
  • Turn the out of office reply OFF upon your return (or set the right on/off dates.)

Every bit of communication you do reflects either positively or negatively on you, and your company. Make even the small, routine ones like these, count!

For another resource with some helpful ideas on crafting out of office messages (some that even oppose what I’ve suggested)  click here.


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