In this article I’ll try to give you an easy view of what’s the Reply-To field, and a common issue that you may find specifically if you’re using Gmail/G Suite as email client, althought you can find userful information also if you’re experiencing this issue with any other email client.
What’s the Reply-To field?
Its name explain by itself, it’s a field where you put an email address that should be used to reply the email. An extended version of the field name would be “reply to this address not to the one in the from address!”.
Do you want a more technical explanation? Ok, per RFC 5322, the technical document that sets the starndard for emails, the Reply-To field is part of the originator fields for an email and:
When the “Reply-To:” field is present, it
indicates the address(es) to which the author of the message suggests
that replies be sent. In the absence of the “Reply-To:” field,
replies SHOULD by default be sent to the mailbox(es) specified in the
“From:” field unless otherwise specified by the person composing the
Pay attention to the word suggests in the above quote from the RFC document, it’s important. That means your email client is not required to follow your indication.
How to use it?
Just put whatever valid email address(es) you want on it. That’s all buddy! No special setup needed, no magic, it’s just another field of the email message where you put an email address, just like the From or the To fields.
This means an important thing. It doesn’t matter what you’re using to create the email, it can be an email client, a WordPress plugin or whatever, as long as the email created by the software you’re using has the email address you wanted in the Reply-To field, its job is done. If your email client is not using the Reply-To address, that’s a completely different story.
Then why the f*ck is not working for me?
Are you using Gmail or G Suite maybe? There are a lot of chances to answer yes to that question if you’re reading this article… Why? Because Google’s email client has a long time known issue regarding to the Reply-To field, causing to ignore the email set in the Reply-To if your From field is using any email configured in your Gmail/G Suite account, and to make it more weird, sometimes this is only an intermittent issue. My word is not enough? Just search in Google and you’ll find a lot of people talking about it.
Damm you Google! Why?!
Before blaming Google, double check the email you have received has the expected email address in the Reply-To checking the email headers. To do it simply click on the three dots menu while you’re viewing the email message, and select “Show original” option:
This will open a new browser tab where you can see the full email source code. This screen has a lot of useful information, in this case we’re interested only in checking the value for the Reply-To field, you will need to scroll down a little to find it just before the Subject line:
Is the expected email address shown in the Reply-To field of you email source code? Yes? Ok, then remember what I said above and stop overthinking about the software you used to create the email. That worked fine, it’s the past, the email is no longer in its scope of control, THAT’S NOT THE ISSUE, MAN!
Once an email is in your inbox, and you can see the Reply-To field contains the email address you wanted to use in this field, only the email client you’re using has the control to decide to follow your suggestion and use the email address in the Reply-To field for the reply, or not.
Ok, makes sense, what’s the solution then?
The Reply-To issue in Gmail (or G Suite, both are driven bye the same email client) has been around for many years, I would say it was always there. So don’t expect any fix from Google, someone at some deparment must think they’re doing right.
Apparently the issue is happening only when the email message has a From address that is part of your Gmail account setup. Therefore if your Gmail account address is email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org, or you have added email@example.com to your account Send mail as setting and the email message you’re trying to reply has any of those emails set as From address, congratulations! you have found the source of the issue.
Fortunately for you there’s a simple workaround that you can use to make Gmail obey, simply use as From address for your website emails any email address not configured in your Gmail account.
The simplest thing would be to use a inexistent or unused email address as From address. e.g. If you don’t have any email address with “no-reply” as username, put firstname.lastname@example.org as From address in your website notifications settings.
That should prevent Gmail from ignoring the Reply-To field. At least, in my experience and as shown it a lot of Google search results.
So nice man, but I’m not using Gmail or G Suite
If you landed here looking for help with your email client ignoring the Reply-To field, and you have confirmed the expected email for it was set in the email source code, but your email client is still ignoring it… I would recommend you contacting the support staff of your email client of choice. If you read the full article you will find when the email address for the Reply-To field was set successfully in the origing, only your email client has the control over what to do with it. That’s your key for a solution.