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How to Write an Auto‑Reply Email

Clear and prompt communication is the foundation of any successful relationship. The same can be said for your workplace relationships with your customers, clients, and colleagues.

If you’re planning to be out of office, even if it’s just for a few days, setting up an autoresponder email message is essential. Not only can it help you remain professional in your absence, but it can also resolve urgent matters that require immediate attention.

So, what information should you include in your out-of-office email, and when should you use one? In this article, we will guide you step by step through the process of writing an effective OOO message.

What is an auto-reply email?

An auto-reply email, also known as an out-of-office message, OOO message, or away message, is a prewritten, automated response that notifies people of your absence from work.

Whether you are only away for a few days or an extended period of time, having an out-of-office message is considered standard practice. It eliminates any confusion and leaves a good impression on your business associates.

When should you use an auto-reply email?

An immediate response is a show of good faith, especially when you’re trying to impress clients. However, that’s not always possible. As dedicated as we are, we still need to take some time off for ourselves or tend to other responsibilities from time to time. The next best thing you can do in this situation is to have a thoughtful and concise out-of-office email in place.

As a general rule of thumb, you should use autoresponder emails if there will be a delay in your response.

Here are some common situations in which you can utilize an out-of-office reply: Appointments

  • Taking off early for the day
  • Taking a personal day off
  • Vacation
  • Business trip
  • Medical leave
  • Maternity leave
  • Sabbatical
  • Any time you have no email access or limited access to the internet

Of course, you don't have to limit auto-reply messages to the workplace. Try using them in your own life as well. See what benefits auto-reply messages can bring for your personal vs. corporate emails.

One of the most common uses for auto-reply emails is to send out-of-office messages to notify those reaching out that there will be a delay in your response.

What should you include in an auto-reply email?

A successful out-of-office message is full of useful information but straight to the point. It should satisfy the person trying to reach you until you are back, whether it provides a reason for your absence or gives them someone else to contact.

Here are the essential components you should include in your OOO messages.

What to include in an out-of-office email: reason for absence, duration of absence, and a point of contact

Reason for absence

While you don’t need to include the exact reason for your absence, a quick mention of it can help your clients and colleagues gauge whether you will be checking in periodically or gone completely. It can also make your out-of-office reply feel more personal and give you a talking point for when you get back.

Overall, keep it simple by briefly mentioning whether you are on vacation, out sick, or if your company is simply closed for a business holiday.

Duration of absence

Automatic replies that don’t include your duration of absence are incomplete. If your business associates don’t know the exact dates you are gone, they may send multiple emails, making it harder for you to stay organized and find their original request in your inbox.

Check your OOO message for a clear time range or end date. Let your contacts know when they can expect a response.

Point of contact

Sometimes, the person reaching out to you will need immediate assistance. Make sure they get the help they need by including a list of contacts for different urgent matters. Provide the names, email addresses, and positions of the coworkers who are willing to cover for you in your absence. Remember to prepare them with all the information and documents they need to assist you as well.

If you are open to answering some questions while you are gone but don’t want to keep your computer on all the time, consider giving out your cell phone number in your out-of-office message.

Your point of contact should know ahead of time that they will be covering for you

Do's and don'ts of auto-reply emails

It might take a few drafts before you come up with the perfect out-of-office message. However, there are some do's and don’ts you can follow to make it as effective and helpful as possible.

Follow these golden rules to take your OOO messages to the next level.

Do's of email auto-replies

  • Be polite and professional: The tone of your out-of-office messages should always be polite and professional. If it’s going out to your clients and customers, make it a point to show that you are apologetic.
  • Be clear and succinct: Don’t be afraid to be clear and succinct in your out-of-office messages. For example, the person reaching out to you doesn’t necessarily need to know where you’re going on vacation. Focus on the exact dates you are off of work and your points of contact. Bold or highlight this information if needed.
  • Go the extra mile: Show that you want to provide help even in your absence. For your coworkers, include a list of important internal links. For your clients and customers, give them special promotions and deals they can take advantage of.

Don’ts of email auto-replies

  • Make empty commitments: Don’t promise to check your emails or other messages on vacation if you have no intention of doing so. Don’t commit to responding as soon as you are back in the office either in case you have a lot to catch up on. Setting expectations can potentially lead to more issues down the road.
  • Include a colleague who hasn’t agreed to help: Don’t list a colleague as an emergency contact if they haven’t agreed to help. This can blind side both the colleague and the person emailing you, making you seem negligent and unprofessional.
  • Promise an immediate response from your colleagues: In the same vein, even if your colleague agrees to help, don’t commit them to an immediate response. They are taking on your work in addition to their own.

Auto-reply email examples

If you’re wondering what a good out-of-office email looks like, take a look at the following examples. Feel free to use them as email templates for your own automatic replies. In general, always consider who your OOO message is going out to and tailor your response.

Example 1

Dear [Name],

Thank you for your email. I will be out of the office for a family vacation from [start date] to [end date]. During this time, I will have limited access to email and will not be able to respond to your message until my return.

If you need assistance right away, please contact [name and contact information of a colleague who can help].

Thanks for your understanding, and I look forward to getting back to you upon my return.

[Your choice of sign off],

[Your Name]

Example 2

Hello Team,

I will be out of the office today and have no email access, [date], due to an emergency situation that needs my immediate attention. I will be back in the office tomorrow, and I apologize for any inconvenience this may cause.

If you have any urgent matters, please reach out to [name and contact information of a colleague who can help] for assistance.

Thank you for your understanding.

[Sign off],

[Your Name]

Maintain good customer service with professional auto-replies

If you're looking to set up your business email, stand out from the competition with top-notch customer service using a vacation auto-reply message. By providing clear communication and alternative contacts, you showcase your professionalism and fulfill your customer’s expectations even when you are away from work.

In addition to out-of-office messages, other types of email automation can help your business grow as well. Eliminate the busy work from your schedule and get help with transactional emails, welcome emails, no-reply emails, and more using Mailchimp’s email marketing software.

Need help with email design? Check out our resources on email design templates and the best fonts for emails.

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