Pay Attention When Drafting Your Out-of-Office Auto-Reply

One of my law school classmates posted another lawyer’s out-of-office email for Martin Luther King, Jr. Day to Facebook. It reads “Unfortunately, the firm is closed on Monday.”

It’s quite likely the lawyer in question did not mean to call “unfortunate” his or her firm’s decision to honor the birthday of a great American like Martin Luther King, Jr. It was probably the last thing he or she did before leaving the office Friday night, and I doubt much thought went into it. In fact, I’m sure more than one lawyer has used this message. But the phrasing is most definitely unfortunate.

I hate out-of-office auto-replies, in general. They are annoying far more often than they are useful, which is why all of the ones I get are automatically deleted. But if you are going to use an auto-reply, take a moment when drafting it to make sure it is appropriate.


  1. Avatar John Hightower says:

    This reminds me of something I heard on radio about 40 years ago. In small-town radio in those days, it was not uncommon to have a “funeral report” on the local station, sponsored by the local funeral home. (There is usually only one in a small town.) The announcements were usually accompanied by a dirge (almost always played on a Hammon organ). I was listening to a small-town radio station in south Alabama as I was driving through. As soon as I heard what I knew was a Hammond organ, I knew what was coming. After the introduction for the funeral report and a commercial for the funeral home, imagine my surprise–and entertainment–when I heard the announcer say, “I’m sorry to report that no one died today.”

    Yes, think before you write–or speak.

  2. Avatar southern bitter says:

    seriously, does everything have to be about racism? as you said, I’m sure the person did not really mean it was “unfortunate” the office was honoring an American hero. Is this all you have to write about?

    • Sam Glover Sam G. says:

      There are, unfortunately, a lot of people who think MLK day should not be a holiday for various reasons, often racist. While I was trying to give the benefit of the doubt to this lawyer, it is quite possible he or she actually meant that it is unfortunate that we are honoring a civil rights hero. Or that people would mistake this lawyer for such a person, which is why the choice of words was unfortunate.

      Is this all you have to write about?

      No, there are a lot of other posts, if you don’t like this one.

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