During a recent holiday period, I saw a lot of English out of office replies from non-native speakers. What intrigues me is the fact that no two are the same. There is nothing wrong with this. After all, why should we all be identical? But really, how many ways of saying the same thing are there? In English, it would seem, there are fewer ways of putting our out of office reply together than there might be in other languages. So, here are some guidelines and some phrases to help you with your out of office message:
What might you want the reply to do?
- Thank / apologize
- Provide dates when you are not here / when you will be back
- State who is standing in (covering) for you (plus contact information)
- Say whether the mail will (or will not) be automatically forwarded to this stand-in (cover)
- Say whether you will have access to your e-mails?
- Say you’ll get in touch when you return
I feel that the message should do most of the functions here, but you may want to add to the list or dispute whether some of the information is really necessary.
- Thank you for your e-mail.
- Unfortunately, I am out of the office …….
- I apologize for any inconvenience this may cause.
Dates when you are not here / when you will be back
- I am currently out of the office. I will be back on May 7th, 2013.
- I am currently on vacation / holiday and will be returning on May 7th, 2013.
Who is standing in for you (plus contact information)
- In urgent cases, please contact Mr. ……….. on +49 711 811 4321
- In urgent cases, please contact me on my mobile +49 173456789
- Mr. Smith (Bob.Smith@XYZ.de) will be standing in for me. He can be contacted on +49 711 811 4321
- For matters relating to ………., please contact Mr. Smith….. For all other matters, please contact Mr. Jones on…..
- If you have additional questions in the meantime please don’t hesitate to contact Mr. Jones on ….
Will (or won’t) the mail be automatically forwarded to this stand-in
- Your e-mails will not be automatically forwarded.
- Your e-mails will be automatically forwarded to Mr. Smith.
Will you have access to your e-mails?
- I will have occasional access to my e-mails during this time.
- I will not have access to my e-mails during this time.
Say you’ll get in touch when you return
- I will contact you when I return.
- I will reply to your e-mails when I return to the office.
The phrases above can be used in any order you feel is appropriate.
- Thank you for your email. Unfortunately, I am not currently in the office. I will though be back on May 7th and will be able to respond when I return. In urgent cases, please contact Ms Cheng.
Why not review your out of office reply? If you post it in the comments box below, we’ll get back to you with feedback.