We've all hit send prematurely, CC’d the wrong person and even spoken ill of a non-responsive recipient without knowing whether they were receiving emails. Such business mistakes are awkward but common, especially for entrepreneurs, and can be fixed. Here are ten embarrassing email mistakes you might make and how you should react to save face:
1. Sending an email prematurely
If you type quickly, you’ve probably made the mistake of sending an email before you’re finished. If this happens, then it's no big deal.
Simply start a follow-up email by apologizing for the multiple messages (or maybe even lighten the mood with a joke) and convey the rest of your original message.
2. Unintentionally replying to all
Replying to “all” is great for keeping people in the loop, but sometimes it can create an unnecessary thread of messages for certain recipients.
If you notice this happening, inform your main communicant(s) that you’re removing individuals from the conversation and will relay any necessary information. As a rule of thumb, it’s a good idea to double check who is receiving an email to make sure it’s relevant to those individuals.
3. Forgetting the attachment
Forgetting to attach a mentioned attachment is common, but still embarrassing. In this situation, it is acceptable to make ‘fear of attachment’ jokes.
Send the attachment in a follow-up email and, in the future, attach the document before you even begin writing your email.
4. Sending the wrong attachment
If you typically work with important financial or confidential documents, you’ll want to be extra careful here.
If you accidentally send the wrong document, send a follow-up email apologizing for the mistake and (if the occasion calls for it) kindly asking the recipient to delete the attached document and not share any information they may have read.
5. Responding to a thread
It can be difficult to keep up with all the information shared in a long thread of emails.
But taking the time to carefully read each email will save you from the embarrassment of asking redundant questions. If someone sheds light on this mistake, simply own up to it and apologize for not reading each email carefully enough.
6. Emailing the wrong person
The convenient use of auto-fill address books makes this mistake all too common. Not only can this be embarrassing, but could also mean your message didn’t reach the intended recipient. You also risk sending sensitive or confidential information to the wrong person.
If this happens, apologize for inconveniencing the recipient and (if appropriate) ask them to not share any delicate information they may have received.
7. Forgetting a recipient
You don’t want to leave an individual out of an important conversation. This can make for unnecessary roadblocks, especially if the person you forgot needs to complete action items.
If this happens, apologize to the forgotten individual and request a face-to-face meeting to personally catch them up on anything they missed.
8. Sending unnecessary emails
Although it’s a very convenient form of communication, relying on email too much can be a problem. It’s usually efficient, but can also be very impersonal, which puts you at risk for losing that personal touch with people or miscommunicating information.
If you send an email that you feel should have been a face-to-face conversation or a conversation on Slack, talk to the individual in person to make up for it.
9. Not proofreading an email
It’s all too easy to make grammar, spelling or punctuation errors when you’re tired or typing in a hurry. Reviewing your emails only takes a few minutes and prevents mistakes that can make you look careless and unengaged.
If you do send an email with a major error or missing information, follow up with an email that corrects the error and apologize for the mistake.
10. Sending an angry email
It’s especially important to delay email responses when you’re emotional or upset about something. Responding in the moment could result in rash comments that could damage relationships or be used against you down the road.
If this does happen, send a follow-up email to the individuals you lashed out against, explaining the situation and apologizing for your actions. If they’re human, they’ll understand.
It’s okay to make mistakes in writing emails—you’re only human. What you don’t want to do is ignore the mistake or try to act like it’s not your fault. That will only make matters worse. Following the protocols above will allow you to responsibly accept any email mistakes and prevent you from experiencing further embarrassment.