“I’m on annual leave”

Leigh James

Letter Press | freelance creative copywriter | South Wales | Devon

“In my absence, please contact [name].

Your email has not been forwarded.

Regards [name].”

The downfall of out of offices (ooo’s)

These messages are ten a penny. We’re creatures of habit, and they’re easy go-to, fail-safe templates we can recycle over and over. You don’t think twice about them. It tells people what they need to know, right?

The trouble is, even though people know who to get in touch with, the words feel cold and soulless. They’re overly formulaic, and formal. Writing like this is often infectious too. Because everyone else does it this way, you should follow suit!? It can become a vicious circle.

Flipping that on its head, every time you turn your auto-reply on is a chance to set yourself/your business, and your writing apart from the dull and dreary.

Don’t put on a telephone voice

Messages like ‘I’m on annual leave’ are the equivalent of Hyacinth Bucket (Bouquet) putting on a telephone voice to keep up appearances. We’re trying too hard to sound business-y and professional.

It could also be a simple dose of forgetfulness, a rushed thing as the last call for flight FR203 from gate 17 is announced. Or perhaps it’s just our pure laziness!? Simply change a date or a name. Bingo. The ooo is on, I’m off.

My advice: paint a picture, but don’t be overly smug. But do add a bit of character, something unusual, a phrase that’ll spark a smile. Tell them something they don’t know. Or make it up – you’ve creative license.

The staple of good writing hasn’t changed either. Write like you speak, and read what you’ve written out loud. If it feels natural, you’re probably hitting the sweet spot.

Don’t forget to weave in the auto-reply basics though. Mainly when you’ll be back to work. You’d be surprised how often it’s forgotten.

For inspiration – some ooo’s from the wild

1. I’m at jury duty selection, hopefully not being chosen. If all goes well, I’ll be back in the office on Monday. If not, I’ll be going full 12 Angry Men for a few more days.

2. Ello Govnah. Fancy some fish ‘n chips and a pint down at the pub? Sorry, just practicing my British accent because I’m in London. I’ll be in the office Wednesday and Friday. And if you are too, I’d love to meet you face-to-face/confirm you’re not a robot. I promise not to try my accent out on you.

3. Hello-ho-ho-ho

A Christmas break is calling… so I won’t see your email until the second day of 2022.

4. ‘I am out getting an eye test. If you need words crafted…’

This is a snippet of one of my personal faves that lived for a matter of hours while I was at an optician’s appointment. It did what it said on the tin. It was in all caps. Line one ‘I’. The second line ‘AM. And so on, in an ever-decreasing font size, mimicking the classic reading chart.

You can play around with the format, as well as the words. Even when it’s plain text.

Share your out of office, or any quirky, interesting efforts you’ve seen.

Leigh James (that’s me) is a Senior Freelance Copywriter.

You can drop me a message, or scribble an email to me.


20th April 2022

Mike quick

I love the work that went into crafting the last one, all for a one-hour break!
That’s dedication.

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