A guide to responding to those really bad emails from family. (You know the ones.)

pregnant belly with footWe’re happy to be working with our sponsor Yahoo! Mail, who’s helping encourage families to stay connected via email. Which, as we know, is a good thing!

While email (and email etiquette) seems to have been around for a million years or so, oddly, we all still have those well-meaning folks in our lives who insist on filling our inboxes with chain letters, photoshopped pics passed off as real ones, and dated news about the Y2K virus. (Oh noes!)

While even the best of us might be tempted to get a little snarky with our responses from time to time, we’ve got some more helpful resources and tips to help you deal with certain categories of unwanted email. Any of these sound familiar? –Liz

1. Urban legends and internet rumors
The fastest way to convince your cousin that no, that picture of the baby’s feet pushing against the pregnant belly is not real, and no, Celebrity X is not a hermaphrodite; is to send him to a link dispelling the rumor on Snopes.com. This site is official arbiter of all things fabricated on the web and has a decent search function too.

You might preface your email with a cute “ha, I fell for that one too” so that you don’t come off like a know-it-all. Which you are, in a good way. (Because really? The feet on the belly again?)

2. Chain letters
I forwarded just one of these once in the last ten years and still feel bad about it. No idea what got into me!

Your best course is to kindly (very kindly) ask the sender not to send you chain letters any more because you’re simply sooooo busy with all your other email, and hope they get the point. Otherwise, if you can’t bear not to forward the emails on and dash your grandmother’s dreams of 7 years of prosperity, forward the email to chainmail@wiredsafety.org. They’ll happily delete them for you.

McCarthy button3. Offensive political commentary
With an election year coming
up, be prepared for that flurry of pro/con Obama sentiment in your
inbox. If you can’t handle that one activist relative who won’t let up with his unpopular views and nutty conspiracy theories (One more time Uncle Edward, I am not voting for your Anarchy party candidate), the best bet is to simply ask him to leave you off his list so that Thanksgiving won’t be horribly awkward this year.

Another great resource; Factcheck.org,
a non-partisan website that monitors the factual accuracy of claims
made in the media. It’s like Snopes for the political set.

4. Too many baby photos!
Of course we totally get the idea that every baby is perfect and special and deserves to have his or her every second on this planet documented on cellulose. This right is occasionally manifested as emails with 243 attachments. And that’s a low estimate. In this case, helpfully point the overeager new parents (or grandparents or godparents) toward a photo sharing site like Kodak Gallery or Shutterfly which can lessen the load on your bandwidth.

Also awesome: Lil’ Grams, a genius service that bundles those emails and snapshots, letting you determine just how often you’d like to receive them. Every bit of info gets stored in your own online baby book keeping your email inbox a little less burdened.

4. Petitions
Adding your name to an email list then forwarding it on is like an invitation for spammers and identity thieves to harvest your info. Instead, suggest to your big-hearted activist friends that they launch a petition on a legitimate site like change.org, in which case you’ll happily sign on.

How about you? What’s the worst/most annoying/most offensive email you’ve ever gotten from a relative?

Cool Mom Staff

We spend our time looking for cool stuff so you don't have to. Hope this one fits the bill.


  • Christina
    Reply May 17, 2011


    I have one (older) relative that insists on sending dumb-women/dumb-blond jokes and it makes me bananas. Mainly because I am a woman. And a blond (well, sometimes). Just waiting for the political stuff to start up again in 3. . .2 . . .1. . .

    Oh, and then there is my mother’s friend who sends emails with titles like “You’ve Gotta See This!”, followed by about 50 photos of pandas snuggled in a pile or 75 inches of snow on a house. It takes for-ev-er for these messages to load and they are NEVER worth the wait.

  • Reply May 17, 2011


    I have used Stop Forwarding a couple of times:


    I suppose it’s a little passive-aggressive of me not to respond directly, but sometimes anonymity is a blessing…

  • Reply May 17, 2011


    What a great idea! I just sent my first stopforwarding email!
    Love it!!

  • Reply May 17, 2011


    My two best friend’s moms both send me those awful emails filled with old people jokes or cute panda pictures. I set up a filter on my Gmail to automatically send emails from them to my trash. They never send me personal emails that require responding, so I don’t feel bad doing this.

  • Reply May 17, 2011

    Love my dad but...

    Ugh, I get at least two or three emails from my dad (who lives a few states away) a day. And sometimes my mom even forwards the *same email* that he forwarded – after he sent it to her in the same batch as me! (Yes, they are still married and live together. Why he doesn’t just have her read over his shoulder is beyond me.)

    The ones that annoy me the most are the ones that are those “spectacular photo” forwards that have like 50 photos in them. Yeah, a lot of them are gorgeous, but I’ve probably seen many of them before – and the worst is that they never credit the photographer!!! As a photog myself, the fact that these mass emails are going around with people’s (assumedly copyrighted) photos that they presumably worked hard to get irritates/frustrates/saddens me to no end.

    And then there are the crazy huge-font brightly-colored “FORWARD THIS ALL TO YOUR FRIENDS THIS IS THE WORST THING EVER YOU WON’T BELIEVE IT BUT YOU HAVE TO READ IT TO BE SAFE!!!!!!1111oneoneone” emails that are just… *sigh*

    I could write an entire blog post about this.

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