Tech – for Everyone

Tech Tips and Tricks & Advice – written in plain English.

Cautions When Sending E-mail

Many times over the years, I have received calls here at my biz from someone desperately wanting to recall (aka “un- Send) an e-mail accidentally sent to the wrong person.

I myself, have hit “Send” sooner than I should have, many many times (but I have not sent romantic weekend getaway plans – meant for my mistress – to my wife. I’ve only talked to someone who did) and wished I could pull the message back.

I am not going to bore you with technical workings of email (POP3, SMTP, and IMAP), but I am going to say that you can no more UNsend (recall) an email than you can UNspill a glass of milk – it can’t be done. All you can do is clean up the mess as best you can — and learn not to “spill” in the first place.

Exercising care in sending e-mails: Folks need to be aware of this once-it-is-sent-it-is-sent reality, and learn to exercise appropriate caution:

* Think before clicking on Reply To All (better yet, never use it).

* Double-check addresses before clicking Send.

* When at work refrain from using the corporate e-mail system for non-business related messages. (Don’t use your workstation to open your personal email Inbox(es) either, unless you don’t mind your company’s IT staff and/or bosses reading all your private mail.)

* Regard e-mail messages as postcards instead of letters.

* Take the time to proofread.

(Man, this is a huge one for me, and I really am trying to ‘get in the habit’, but my friends and family are pretty used to seeing typos and misspellings, duplicate words words, and questionable grammar. In professional correspondence, such errata is shooting myself in the foot.)

* When “forwarding” take the time to remove the original Sender’s email address(es).

I do not know if my desperate caller wound up in divorce court, but I do know that one quick and simple careless mistake had serious consequences he was not at all eager to face…

And I do not know if my typos and misspellings have cost me business…

But I do know, I need to slow down; and it wouldn’t hurt me to take some time before clicking on the Send button.

A click can cost you.

Have a great weekend, everybody! (And, “I Wish I Could Have Unsent That” stories can be left in the comment section. I suspect you may have one or two…)

Related reading: Tip: Bcc Protects Private Email Addresses

“Many know this trick; however, I still find that many do not.Read more..

Quote of the day: Always be a first-rate version of yourself, instead of a second-rate version of somebody else.  ~ Judy Garland

Copyright 2007-2011 © “Tech Paul” (Paul Eckstrom). All Rights Reserved.

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May 14, 2011 - Posted by | advice, computers, e-mail, how to, Internet | , , , , , , , , , ,


  1. Great article Paul. I also think the BCC tip is (or should be) common internet etiquette, IMHO. It’s a habit for me.

    I’m sure you’re right that nearly everyone has been in that sad situation you described, or knows someone who has.

    The one that sticks in my mind was an engineer that hit “Reply To All” at work, and some of the recipients were customers. He was immediately fired. Apparently his comments were inappropriate.

    In the resulting meeting our boss summed up the conference with this statement: “Once you hit Return, there is no return.”

    It’s one I’ve never forgotten…


    Comment by KsTinMan | May 14, 2011 | Reply

    • KsTinMan,
      I do feel for the guy. It’s tough when you learn your lesson by getting the axe.. and be the one used as an example “pour l’encouragement des autres”.
      (But as you said, you never forgot it.)


      Comment by techpaul | May 14, 2011 | Reply

  2. Some good tips here…While many of us know the etiquette’s… we often rush…do not read…send things off… oops, too late… it’s gone! We need these reminders… thanks Paul.



    Comment by Anonymous | May 15, 2011 | Reply

    • gaia,
      I have not lost a job (or a marriage) because of a too-hasty click, but I have had (too) many slap-my-forehead moments..

      Gmail has an “Undo” feature which delays the Send for 10 seconds or so, giving one a chance to ‘pull it back’ which I really like, and would like to see become a Standard feature of all e-mail services and programs.


      Comment by techpaul | May 15, 2011 | Reply

  3. TechPaul,

    Excellent article! When it comes to those really important emails, I try to keep the content at a minimum. Where I work, the email system is a Novell Groupwise system; therefore, you can retrieve those bad sent emails. I don’t know how many times I have done that because I hastily sent them.



    Comment by Ramblinrick | May 15, 2011 | Reply

    • Rick,
      Such an ability would almost be worth the trouble of setting up my own mail server…

      And that’s a great point (it would serve me to heed) — brevity, they say, is the soul of wit.


      Comment by techpaul | May 15, 2011 | Reply

  4. TechPaul,
    Thanks for reminding us to be extra careful with our emails. We all mess up from time to time, and your article is, or should be, well received.


    Comment by Paul Lubic, Jr. | May 18, 2011 | Reply

    • Paul! How nice to see you here again!

      Thank you for you words of support.

      Folks, Paul writes a very good series at his Paul’s Home Computing Blog website. I invite you to click the link and take a look-see. I think you’ll be glad you did.


      Comment by techpaul | May 18, 2011 | Reply

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