Most people will know the sinking sensation one feels as an email blunder zips its way across cyber-space, your embarrassment moving irretrievably towards its destination at light speed.
We're not going to give you another list of email etiquette dos and don'ts - we want to hear about interesting and entertaining email mistakes you've witnessed, and how the aftermath was dealt with.
Here is a common five-stage reaction experienced following a serious email blunder.
- Disbelief: "Oh no, surely I haven’t done that..."
- Denial: "Check sent box 50 times."
- Twitch: "I have done that, [***]."
- Panic: "PANIC!"
- Damage limitation: "Please ignore my previous message, I was on drugs."
It's a problem that some tech companies have tried to address. Google's free email service, Gmail, added an unsend message function in March. Taking advantage of the five second delay in outgoing emails, the new feature allows users to quickly catch messages with errors before they arrive in the recipient’s inbox, preventing some potentially embarrassing situations.
But the only surefire defence against email blunders is cool-headedness and attention to detail. Here is a classification of some of the many types of embarrassing email you might have sent.
- The angry reply: The recipient is unhappy with you and they've made that perfectly clear. You feel you're being unjustly blamed for something or that this person is being unnecessarily curt. Time to give this bozo a textual pummelling so severe he won't sit down for a week; prepare to unleash the hounds. SEND - Read your reply again five minutes later, refer to the five stages.
- The idiot response: Some recent lobotomy patient has misunderstood what you've asked five times, pushing your blood pressure across the 500psi danger-line and wasting your precious time. Looks like it's time to let this moron know what you think of their cognitive reasoning. Set it out in short sentences, CAPITAL LETTERS and language that would patronise a turnip. SEND:Read your reply again five minutes later, refer to the five stages.
- The classic 'Reply All': Dave has invited you to his get together; good old Dave. Unfortunately you notice on the recipient list that Dan and all his friends are also invited. You reply to Dave that you’ll be happy to attend his party, but it’s a shame that Dan and co are coming, as they are a bunch of utter douche-bags. SEND: Oops, reply all; refer to the five stages.
- Forwarded conversations: A customer makes a legitimate email complaint, but there's no need for them to be so rude. You have a quick email discussion with a colleague to formulate a reply, but part of this conversation includes a comment from one of you alluding to the customer’s dubious parentage. A seemingly satisfactory response is decided upon. SEND: Read your reply again five minutes later, refer to the five stages.
This is only a small selection of the many, many email blunders that it’s possible to commit. Let us know, by posting a comment below, if you think we've missed a key one. Or have you witnessed an embarrassing email blunder that you're willing to share for the benefit of our sadistic enjoyment? Don't forget to check it before you click 'submit'.