Home > Auto-fill Keeps Me Awake At Night

Whenever I conduct training on business writing, I nearly always include a section on emails. Without fail when the slide comes up, there is always one face in the audience clearly projecting back at me "emails aren't business writing" or "what a waste of time, I don't need to learn about emails, they are so simple a child can send one."

Emails today are a core method for business communication and should be treated with the respect they deserve. In fact, I would go so far as to suggest that emails are one of the greatest tools we have for building business relationships, but are also often to blame for damaging them.

One of the risks with emails is that we treat them casually. Many of us can't imagine a poorly written or un-proofread email getting us in trouble. However, horror stories abound.

I saw this article recently http://www.canberratimes.com.au/digital-life/digital-life-news/the-perils-of-email-autofill-and-other-internet-etiquette-disasters-20150829-gjal58.html discussing some of the consequences of auto-fill. Auto-fill is where you type a few letters in of the name of the person you want your email to go to, and auto-fill guesses which recipient you are after.

Everyone seems to have a story about how they accidently sent an email to their boss or their mother that was meant for another.

Once when I finished delivering a training course and turned my phone back on, I had multiple messages from my accountant. When I listened to them they were all along the same theme: "Please delete the email you received from me this morning without reading it."

It turns out her husband and I have names that start with the same letters. I can only imagine the type of thing you might email to a spouse that you wouldn't want others to see.

As I am a nice person, I did trash this email without opening it. At a weaker, more curious moment, I may not have been able to resist reading and perhaps even sharing with a few trusted friends - who would have of course passed on to a few discrete associates and so on and so on and suddenly we're viral people!!

Now the lazy half of me loves auto-fill, but I have to admit I was filled with dread when this supposedly helpful feature first emerged.

I treat all emails the same way I would any business correspondence. This means I proofread and then proofread again. Possibly I even read them out loud to confirm they sound okay.

Now I also have to proofread the addresses an email is going to. I can't tell you how many times I double check who an email is addressed to or wake up at night covered in sweat at the thought I may have sent out an email without second guessing the autofill. There have been nights I have been so worried I hop up and check emails have been sent to the right people.

So please use emails to make communicating easier, but don't think they are so esy you don't need to review and revise before hitting send.



Back to all articles