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Message Mishaps: Avoiding Embarrassing E-mail Errors at Work

October 2009 (SmartPros) Accidents happen. Particularly when e-mailing. If you've ever hit "send" only to realize moments later that you made a terrible mistake, you're in good company.

Seventy-eight percent of executives admitted they have inadvertently sent someone the wrong message or copied someone on an e-mail without intending to, according to a recent survey by Robert Half International. Use the following tips to steer clear of awkward and embarrassing e-mail faux pas:

Slow down. Haste makes waste. The more you rush or multitask, the more likely you are to commit an e-mail blunder. Control your itchy “send” finger by developing good editing habits before you fire off a message. Always proofread both the content and subject line of your e-mail, and double-check that you have the correct name in the “To” line. 

Pay attention to attachments. Make sure you check the file names of your attachments, too. You don’t want to ask clients or colleagues to “Please review the attached spreadsheet” and have them open up a photo from last year’s holiday party.

Cc: carefully. When writing confidential or sensitive e-mails, wait until you’ve finished your note before selecting the recipients. This will help you avoid sending out incomplete thoughts or copying inappropriate people. In addition, be wary of overusing the “reply all” function. Include only those individuals who truly need to be in on the conversation.

Guard against gadget goofs. Handheld devices are great for quick back-and-forth communication, but miniature screens make it easy to overlook grammatical goofs, spelling slips and wording errors. Run spell-check and consider sending lengthy or critical messages from a computer with a full-size monitor.

Stay cool. Don’t e-mail when you’re upset. E-mail tirades sent in the heat of the moment have come back to haunt many an employee or job candidate. Step away from the keyboard and take some time to compose yourself. In this economy—indeed, in any economy—you need to do everything you can to protect your professional reputation.

For more advice on management and career issues, listen to The Management Minute, Robert Half’s podcast series at

Accountemps is the world’s first and largest temporary staffing service specializing in the placement of accounting, finance and bookkeeping professionals. The company has more than 360 offices nationwide and offers online job search services at

2009 SmartPros Ltd. All rights reserved.

Source: Accountemps

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