The best responses to Slate's e-mail gaffe story.

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April 13 2009 12:17 PM

I Admire Your Anatomy

The best responses to Slate's e-mail gaffe story.

Thanks for all the responses to my column about e-mail gaffes. Here's what I learned:

  1. The most common misdirected e-mail scenario: "Received an e-mail from friend A. It really pissed me off. I forwarded to friend B with snarky comments. Except I didn't hit 'forward.' I had hit 'reply.' "
  2. If you do send an embarrassing e-mail to everyone, sending a follow-up e-mail begging everyone not to read it doesn't work.
  3. Many e-mail programs allow you to disappear the "reply-all" button.
  4. "Reply-all" chains along the lines of "Free bananas in the kitchen!!!" can and definitely do bring down a company's e-mail server.
  5. This problem is compounded when "helpful" people send out "reply-all" messages that say: "Don't reply-all! It will crash the e-mail server!"
  6. Easiest way to avoid mistakes: fill in the "To" field after writing the heated/personal/jokey e-mail.
  7. Several people actually seem to have been demoted or dismissed because of disparaging comments that received an unintended public airing.
  8. If you are sending around Excel files listing the employees you intend to lay off, or a detailed description of what you intend to do to your boyfriend when he arrives home that evening, be sure to triple-check the "To" field.
  9. Old-school undo send: tearing up letters after you have written them!
  10. Avoid sending Wham! lyrics to ex-boyfriends.
  11. If you get an e-mail from a Mr. Penis about a quote for fixing a "stiffener" on a PC chassis, it's best just to laugh quietly to yourself.
  12. Because of auto-complete, brothers tend to receive a lot of e-mails meant for the other brother.
  13. Text messaging and IMs are an even bigger problem than e-mail. They are more rapid-fire, plus they seem to encourage the strange compulsion to send the message to the person you are slagging.
  14. Sometimes a "reply-all" gaffe has unintended benefits, such as getting the guy in the office who wears too much hair gel to lay off the stuff a bit.
  15. Finally, if you admire certain features of someone's anatomy, don't put it in writing, just in case you send the e-mail to everyone in your department.

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And if that's not enough for you, check out College Humor's "Accidental, Life-Changing, Real Reply-Alls."

Michael Agger is an editor at The New Yorker. Follow him on Twitter.