The average person receives 121 emails per day during work, which adds up over the course of a work week to 605, jump to a year and you will have 29,040 emails in your inbox. That equates to nearly 29,040 (more most likely) replies that could go wrong. As you’re only human, the likelihood that one of these will not be the perfect adherence of email etiquette is more likely than you would like to think.

Everyone can have a mistake in judgement or be accidentally informal when it comes to sending emails. How you deal with that mistake can be the way you stand out from the crowd and pin yourself as a straight shooter, or emailer as the case may be.

So, here what to do when you do make a mistake over email:


This is the first port of call when it comes to an email taken badly or one that is out of line. The simplest solution, it can admittedly be very hard to admit when you are wrong and so this might not be as easy as it first sounds.

Apologizing can also be one of the worst things you can do. In a way, it highlights the issue and may even make other people react more than they would have otherwise. Safe to say, you should never apologise to a group email. Instead, take your superior to the side and lay out your apology. If anyone does complain, they can then inform them of your apology and make it much more formal or even send them to you for a personal apology.

Ignore It

Chances are if you make a mistake in an email - whether large or small - most people will ignore it, as they probably didn’t even notice or know what you meant in the first place. If a chain mail or group email, the likelihood that people will ignore it will also mean any action you take would draw unnecessary attention.

For those that do see it, their reaction may not be as severe as you expect. Waiting for a reaction is best in this situation, as it helps you to form a response that is not reactionary and meets the situation head on.

If Sent to the Wrong Person…

This can feel like a nightmare scenario, but the solution is immensely fast, “Sorry, this was meant for someone else. Feel free to ignore.” Chances are the person on the other end will be relieved, one less email to worry about!

Of course, if you are worried about sensitive data being exposed as a result of your blunder you can always ask the person on the other end to delete the email. They may not be able to delete the knowledge from their mind, but it’s one less piece of sensitive data on an unsuspecting email server. If all else fails, inform a senior staff member above you of the mistake so they are aware of the information breach and can deal with it appropriately. Keeping quiet can be your worst enemy in such situations, so be upfront about it before a situation escalates!

Forget to Respond

This isn’t something that can go wrong in the email, but forgetting to reply entirely can often be a much worse situation. Answering an email in your head is an easy mistake to make, especially as you can be convinced later down the line that you did, in fact, send that email. However, when you search through your various folders and discover that you didn’t send it, after all, you can feel very silly.

In this case, hold your hands up about your mistake! There’s no use for further denials, as you have it in cold, hard, un-replied to emails in your inbox. Admit your mistake, hit reply and put your thoughts into words as you intended to originally.

As a Freelancer

Of course, sometimes the emails we send don’t have a coworker on the other end. If you work for yourself, for example, there is a very real chance that the person you are risking offending is paying for your services. So, when sending a bad email to a client your income and reputation can both be on the line. With no employer to back you up in such situations, if things are escalated the situation can feel pretty dire.

Luckily, no matter your freelance niche you can protect yourself with anything from media insurance to engineering insurance. Which means that if apologies and other ways of dealing with bad email etiquette aren’t enough, you have somewhere to turn to in order to help deal with the situation.

When employed, your employer will have professional indemnity insurance and so as a freelancer or contractor you need to ensure you have the same. It can be a saving grace when a client takes does become upset enough to take action against you, warranted or not.

To conclude, mistakes are a part of life and a big part of a career, it is from these that we learn and grow. A slip in your email etiquette can feel like a huge incident to you, but, may actually be small in the grand scheme of things. Just remember to deal with your email etiquette mistakes in the right way!

Author's Bio: 

Zack Halliwell is a freelance writer in the business niche, giving advice for fellow remote workers on anything from how to work smarter to obtaining the right media insurance for them.