Ever wish you could take that email back?

It wouldn’t hurt any of us to hesitate a second and review our emails before hitting the “send” button.

Some people have learned that the hard way. And, boy, have there been some whoppers.

Can you imagine accidentally emailing:

  • Confidential salary information – to the entire company
  • A nasty comment about your supervisor – to your supervisor
  • A job offer – to the wrong applicant
  • A derogatory email about a customer – to the customer
  • A job application – to your current boss
  • Confidential information about a client – to another client
  • Price information meant for a vendor – to a customer

Those are just a few of the embarrassing blunders reported by 250 executives across the country in a survey by the Robert Half consulting firm.

In fact, 78 percent of those executives themselves say they have mistakenly emailed someone the wrong message or copied someone on a message without intending to.

Not surprisingly, some of the email gaffes above resulted in the termination of the employee.

And, in other cases, breaches of email etiquette can adversely affect the sender’s career prospects.

Three of four of the executives surveyed said technology etiquette breaches could somewhat (61 percent) or greatly (15 percent) hurt the employee’s career. One quarter said, “Not at all.”

In Business Etiquette: The new rules in the digital age, the Robert Half staffing firm addresses some of the fine points of email etiquette:

  • Be kind. It is commonly known that using all CAPS is “cybershouting.” But emailing critical, negative or bad news is also a no-no. Negative news should be handled face-to-face or by phone.
  • Be considerate. Succinctly summarize your email request. Don’t expect the recipient to read through a long thread of previous emails.
  • Be clear. Always, always include a subject line and immediately let the recipient know if you need something or if the email is just FYI.
  • Be concise. The less you write and send, the more your emails will be read. Be cordial, but get to the point. Use bullets, which are easier to read than long blocks of type. Consider zipping large attachments to ensure they reach the intended recipient.
  • Be timely. Respond to all messages in a timely manner and within 24 hours at most. If you say you’ll answer more fully later, be sure to follow up. If you are away from the office or email, be sure to put on an out-of-office message so people don’t wonder why you haven’t responded.
  • Be humble. Is your email really so important it needs a red flag? Or are you just being impatient? And is it really necessary to “reply to all”? Bad “reply to all” threads run rampant in many organizations.
  • Be careful. The list of painful examples at the top should be warning enough. Always review your distribution list before hitting the “send” button and reply with care.