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What to do When Emails are Sent in Error

When you send or receive emails in error -- what do you do?

What if you receive an email that you believe was not intended for you? Should you reply asking the sender if they meant to send or Cc: you in the email?

On the other hand, what if you just discovered you accidentally sent an email to the wrong contacts? How do you acknowledge your “oversight”?

Email Received in Error

If you receive an email that doesn’t seem to apply to you, I would reply to the sender and kindly ask what they would wish for you to do based on their email. This will allow them to either clarify or let you know if they emailed you in error.

There are different reply expectations if you are in the To: or Cc: field; how you reply can consider this. To: expects your input, whereas Cc: tends to be an FYI.[ Read More on Cc: and BCc: ]

If you are in the To: field, I would be more apt to reply promptly, asking what they would like me to do. For example, “Got your email and am wondering what I need to do. Can you let me know at your convenience?”

When Cc:’d, my approach may be more passive. “Thanks for the info. How can I help?”

Another consideration, if you feel you’ve been included in a conversation in error, is to help the sender by not exposing that error to others in the conversation. In the case of a possible mistake, only reply to the sender (do not “Reply to All”) so they have the opportunity to clarify your involvement or the fact they made a mistake.

Emails Sent in Error

In this fast-paced crazy world, we all make mistakes. Myself included. That is why I always — always — look at the To:, Cc: fields before clicking send.

I get how you can click on an email address unintentionally, especially with auto-fill and contacts with the same first name in your address book.

So the obvious first step is to slow down. Next, check the names you add when sending an email to multiple addresses and make sure those addresses are the ones you want to get your communication.

This only takes a few extra seconds…

Then, send a quick follow-up email noting that you discovered your mistake. “My humble apologies for that email. I sent it in error. Sorry for the confusion and inconvenience.”

Business success comes from paying attention to details. So please don’t lose sight of that when it comes to our email activities.

Responding Appropriately & Professionally

Regardless of which side you may be on, this time, always respond with understanding. Being humble and kind always contributes to building on the relationships we rely on to develop our businesses.

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