How to Fix Email Mistakes

Have you recently made a major email mistake? You’re not alone; email mistakes such as hitting “reply all” or sending an email to the wrong person are “common” according to US News. However, if you make one of these types of mistakes, you can usually undo the harm that comes from making such a blunder by using tact, common sense, and sometimes a little technical help. Here are a few of our favorite ways to undo email mistakes and prevent you from harming your reputation, losing friendships, or even risking your job.

Gmail’s Undo Lab
One of my favorite features of Gmail is its broad assortment of Labs. If you’re prone to making email mistakes, you’ll want to make sure you’ve enabled two key labs: Mail Goggles and Undo. Mail Goggles helps prevent users from sending emails late at night when they may be unable to make clear, conscious decisions when they may be too tired (or, let’s face it, too drunk) to make decisions as to what emails to send and to whom. Users with Mail Goggles will have to solve basic math equations to send an email, which should be fairly easy if they’re not too tired (or too drunk). Of course, you can easily disable this setting if you’re determined to send the email anyway. The other mentioned lab, Undo, allows users to send an email with a five-second delay. With this feature, you will have the option to Undo the sending of any email sent via Gmail for about five seconds, which is useful for those who get gratification from hitting send and then have instant remorse thereafter.

This feature can also be useful to those who are careless with their content. LockerGnome writer Matt Ryan, who used to work in customer service, explains that “sometimes, the email you send is more important than you think. Everything you send out becomes a part of the written record, which can come back to bite you if you inadvertently make a promise you can’t keep. A number, price, or product name in the wrong place can put you on the line in a big way.” He said that “while working for a consumer electronics company, I accidentally pasted the wrong product price in a form I’ve sent out hundreds of times before. That one minor error caused several hours of customer relations calls.” Matt says that the moral of the story is to “always double-check your messages before you send them off,” though these labs from Gmail can be useful in the event you forget to read your email before you hit send. Users should note that while Google announced it will be closing the Google Labs project to focus on Google+, Gmail Labs are not affected and will still be available for people to use and explore.

How to Fix Email Mistakes

Send a follow-up email.
If you send an email to the wrong person and they deserve an apology, consider sending them an immediate, but brief email apologizing for the error. They may reply back with a much stronger response, but be sure you take the first step in resolving the error before any potential backlash. If your error is related to your job, consider emailing those who can impact your job an explanatory apology and correction. Then, cc other involved management to ensure they’re aware you not only realize your error, but are willing to hold yourself accountable for the mistake.

Apologize to those who complained.
Did you hit that dirty Reply All button? If a few of your colleagues complained, email them (and only them) back and apologize for your error, insisting that the incident was an accident and you didn’t mean to clutter their inbox. A sincere apology — especially if it is to someone in management — can go a long way in securing your reputation and even your job.

Alert your boss.
Did you accidentally send internal documents to opposing counsel? Before it hears about it from the other law firm, be sure you’re the first to tell your company about any mistake you made that could be a problem for your business. Often, the problem can be solved by others on your team much faster than simply by your panic. Alerting your boss that you made a mistake also demonstrates you’re not trying to hide anything, and are willing to communicate and solve problems; both are traits that employers appreciate.

Send the email again.
Did your email go out without the attachment, or with the wrong information entirely? Consider sending the entire email again, but this time with the correct attachments. You may want to use a subject line to alert your recipient of the correction so it doesn’t appear that the email is an exact duplicate. You can also indicate that the previous email contained the wrong attachments by explaining the error in the content of the email. Be aware that the recipient can still see the wrong attachments, but at least they’ll also have access to the correct documents. Fixing this type of mistake might not help you, but it can’t hurt you any more than the error potentially already has.

If all else fails…
If you have accidentally sent an email to your boss or coworker, and they are away from their desk or computer, you could try to sneak into their office and delete the email before they have a chance to read it. Of course, they may have already seen the email on their iPhone or BlackBerry, and the risk of getting caught for doing this is far greater than the potential repercussions for whatever you sent via email. We don’t recommend this solution, but if all else fails, you may want to consider trying to delete the embarrassing email before it can be read.

Have you ever made a major email mistake? How did you fix it? Feel free to share your story in the comments.

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  • JustinPauloSolo

    awesome! :)

  • http://twitter.com/GraysonMiller Grayson Miller

    Undo feature is great and I have it set on the max of 30 seconds  I has saved me from many errors primarily of ommision

  • allemander

    Have you HAVE made a major email mistake?
    LOL – edit much?

  • http://twitter.com/GraysonMiller Grayson Miller

    I can’t tell you how many times I have been saved by Undo which I have set on the max 30 second delay.  It has prevented many errors primarily of omission but some of commission !!! 

  • Mark Schierbecker

    Great article.

  • David Kaplan

    You forgot my most used option: Outlook’s “Recall and delete if possible” option under tools :)

  • zeekiel

    I use thunder off of my own email server which has the send key and reply all different side of the screen which makes it much easier to not make a mistake

  • Nuwan

    last solution seems to be working…

  • Whitetiger

    So this is why your no longer using the back-space key, your using the undo button! LOL

  • http://twitter.com/designergirla Bonnie Boden

    I sent an email to a co-worker saying that I didn’t want to hire a guy my boss recommended, because the guy was anal, too narrow minded, uncreative and a replicate of my boss. Accidentally copied my boss. Immediately called boss and said: “oooops, want to talk”? Turned out he did and while we never did see eye to eye –  we got along a lot better after it. 

    Note: While I haven’t worked with him in years – he is still anal.

  • http://twitter.com/Bastianoso Bastian

    Same here. I highly appreciate this google feature of undoing mails!

  • http://twitter.com/droidmaker mhr

    I once hit REPLY ALL to a board of directors note that was intended for one of them, where i was very critical of another board member. After I finished freaking out for 15 seconds – I wrote another note to send to everyone and in the subject line I said UPDATED – DISREGARD PRIOR DRAFT. Both emails from me arrived moments apart, and since they were all busy people they were happy to skip the old version and just read the updated one. I think the ruse worked. I never got any bad fallout…

  • s_bobo

    I just wrote a late night email to a jr. colleague at work who has been having huge problems with an account. She’s basically too young and been saddled with too much responsibility. The client has been unhappy with her work and called a meeting with our boss. I asked our boss today if he’d spoken with the client and he said not yet. My jr. colleague has been in tears for the last few days waiting for the outcome. I emailed her tonight to tell her no word yet but to go easy on herself while she waits. Unfortunately, it was late when I was writing it and my colleague and boss have similar names and autofill selected my boss’s name when I started typing. I didn’t notice so you can guess who got the reassuring email. . . Fortunately, I didn’t say more. I was tempted to make some critical comments about how our boss is handling the situation in general but refrained. . .thank god!