7 Stupid E-mail Mistakes to Avoid

Stupid e-mail mistakesLast night I decided to give up multi-tasking. I made that decision after I forwarded an e-mail without scrolling down completely and reading the last sentence. As I pushed send, I looked at the last line and let out a loud Nooooooooo!

The friend who had sent me the original e-mail, knowing I was going to forward it, included a smartass sentence at the end. Note to self: read entire e-mails before you forward them.

You’ve heard of what not to wear. There are a few things not to do when you send an e-mail.

Click “reply all”

When the e-mail should go only to the person who sent it, send it to that person only. If you write snide comments about someone on the distribution list and that person receives the e-mail, they won’t be too happy about it. Trust me on this.

Forget to attach whatever you’re supposed to attach

After doing that one too many times, and having to send another e-mail apologizing for forgetting the attachment, now I attach the document before I write the e-mail. So far so good.

Enter pet names as contact names

One of my clients sent a group e-mail and included her husband’s e-mail address on the list. In her address book, his name is “hot stuff.” I’m not sure everyone on the group listed needed to know that about him.

Show everyone’s e-mail address instead of using bcc

Not everyone knows that bcc stands for “blind carbon copy.” In other words, it means don’t let everyone see your e-mail list because 1) it’s annoying to scroll past e-mail addresses to read the message and 2) some people like to copy the addresses and add them to their own e-mail list so they can send you annoying spam e-mails.

Forget to use bcc

You try to bcc someone on an e-mail but mistakenly put their address in the cc column. It’s hard to secretly copy someone on an e-mail when their e-mail address is clearly on the e-mail.

Not proofreading an e-mail before you send it

The time to think about spell check is before you push send. Last week I sent what I thought was an informative, well-written e-mail. As I pushed send, I realized I’d misspelled a word. Crap!

Sending e-mails to the wrong group list

A good timesaving tool is creating group e-mail lists for clients and business associations. Mistakenly sending a group e-mail to your clients about your girls’ night out is a good stress-inducing tool. It’s also TMI for your clients.

With regard to my friend who sent me the original e-mail, I’m still contemplating the payback.

Are there any e-mail mistakes you’d add to this list? Let me know in the comments below.


  1. My most common challenge from this list is forgetting the attachment. I was glad when GMail came out with a labs feature that helps with that. It looks for words like “attached” or “attachment” in my emails and if it doesn’t see a file, then it pops up and asks me if I forgot it. Handy!

    I don’t think any email program has figured out a way to keep us from the reply-all/BCC mistakes though. 🙂

  2. Thank you SO much for this email! While I’d like to think I am beyond these mistakes, I often make them despite my care! I work for a major university and last week we had an “incident” with the dreaded “Reply All” button in which every employee on campus received a string of emails (that lasted all day) with scathing and unprofessional remarks. It was awesome in its own way. Needless to say, I have forwarded the link to this post to my colleagues as well as posting it to my Facebook wall for friends and family outside of work.

    • Wow! Thanks for sharing a real-life example. I cringed when I read it. Thanks for passing this article along. It would be great if it kept others from letting something like this happen again.

  3. Do you use Gmail? I love the Undo Send because it’s amazing what you catch in the 10 seconds after you hit Send, and you can literally undo it and make any changes!

  4. Thank you, Lisa, for putting a smile on my face! And thank you for sound advice – great article!

  5. I’d like to submit my ideas for a couple more mistakes to avoid:

    “Writing something in email that you would not have the guts to say in person” Email can be so immediate and personal yet senders and recipients alike are a level removed from direct contact. This creates the potential for people to make snide remarks they would normally keep to themselves or even inadvertently say something insulting when they meant it as a joke. Tone of delivery can be completely lost and you can’t trust that the recipient will be able or willing to discern a sarcastic comment from a serious one. An analogy might be the way car drivers treat other drivers on the road. Behind the windshield, other drivers appear anonymous and dehumanized. Someone who wouldn’t think of cutting into the store checkout line in person might weave aggressively in and out of traffic to get to an exit a couple cars ahead, especially if they are irritable or tired.

    “Treating your email as a recording of your stream of consciousness.” People who pride themselves on rapidity of thought and action are especially guilty of cryptic, somewhat manic run-on paragraphs. Rather than expressing how efficiently you can come up with new ideas, stream-of-consciousness emails actually project an image of disorganization and inability to think things through. At best, this approach to email forces your reader to spend extra time trying to sort through your thoughts. At worst, your reader will write you off as not worth their time.

    To avoid both of these pitfalls, you might try composing your email in a separate text editor, as if it were a real letter. If your email is more than a few sentences long, the text editor usually offers a larger box so that you can see the composition in its entirety. You can easily move whole sections around just like any other document. Force yourself to re-read your message all the way through before copying and pasting it to the email application. A plus: you can’t accidentally hit ‘Send’ before you’re finished composing your message.

    • That’s an excellent tip! Who doesn’t want to write a scathing e-mail after someone does something awful to them? But unless you decide to delete the message within 10 seconds after you push send, you can’t take back what you wrote. Ugggh.

      I love your supermarket line analogy. I never looked at it that way, but i will from now on!

  6. This was great information and I didn’t know about bcc. Thank you for that.

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