Avoid Making Email Gaffes

Email blunders are easy to make and hard to fix.

Avoid Making Email Gaffes
photo: istock

Picture this scenario: your boss just sent an engaging email to your entire department. You can’t wait to pan him with your colleague, Reba, so you whip up a hilarious note in a reply, likening the boss to a malformed rooster with the brains of a toilet tank. It’s poetry. You type in Reba’s name and hit send. Oh, wait, no you didn’t. The auto-fill filled in Reply All. Now who’s got a septic system for brains?

Just Don’t Write It

The only way to prevent humiliation with email is to avoid saying things in emails that you don’t actually want in writing. You really don’t want a record of anything that is embarrassing, offensive, unprofessional or just plain mean. You can missend it, IT’s filters may flag it, or you might accidently leave it up on your screen when you run off to a meeting. Also, remember that Reba has a Forward button, and you forgot her birthday last week.

That’s Not Funny

Remember that email interactions do not include most of the visual cues of face-to-face communication. Jokes can be misinterpreted. Before you write, think about how your message could sound to someone who doesn’t know your emotional state or have all of the context that you have. If it can be misconstrued or you have to rely on emoticons, you probably need to rethink and rewrite your message.

Before You Press Send…

  • Avoid discussing sensitive information.
  • Don’t send email if you’re angry.
  • Know when to use email and when to have a discussion in person or over the phone.
  • Send email only to those who need to see it.

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