Mass Rejection By Email

The other day I received an email stating I had not been selected as a speaker for the next Ignite Seattle event. At Ignite, people apply to speak for five minutes where you can have only 20 slides that automatically advance every 15 seconds. The people who attend Ignite tend to be self-identified geeks, so even though my topic was going to be funny, I guess it wasn’t deemed geeky enough.

Anyway, I wasn’t really disappointed I hadn’t been selected, mostly because I’m so busy it would have been a lot of work creating the slides and rehearsing the timing. But, what did give me pause was seeing that the person who sent the email had put all of us rejects’ email addresses in the “To” field, rather than the “BCC” field, which meant we could see who else had applied and been rejected. Not only that, but now we have access to each other’s email addresses. Who knows what spurned speakers are capable of!

I do want to point out that the sender noticed his mistake and emailed us later profusely apologizing for the gaffe. Unfortunately, once we press “send”, an email it is gone and we cannot take it back. Oh, I know some of us have tried using the cancel option, but, all that does is send a follow-up email that says “Arden would like to cancel this message.”

So, for those of you who aren’t yet Clise Etiquette Facebook fans (and I invite you to become one), you missed me reminding everyone to always, always use the “BCC” field when you are sending an email to many people, especially when they are unrelated.

Here are a few more email etiquette tips:

Never send an email when you’re angry or emotional. I am embarrassed to admit I’ve done this too many times and always regret it. If you are upset about something, cool down before sending an email. Or write the email without putting the receiver’s email address in the “To” field, save it and then review it a day later when you’ve calmed down. If it still feels right and you won’t regret sending it then go ahead. But if your words are barbed or sniveling, rewrite and send a more civil, adult email.

Be careful of using “Reply all”. This happens all the time. I received too many emails in my corporate jobs where people would hit “reply all” and we’d all be subjected to emails that did not apply to us. My favorite is when a huge distribution email goes out asking a question and many of the receivers select “Reply all” to answer and then everyone else responds to the group by demanding that people stop using “Reply all”. Oy vey! Only use “Reply all” when everyone on the list must see your reply.

Have a clear subject line. Have you ever received an email that looks something like this:
“FW:, FW:, FW:, FW:, Stop forwarding emails.”? Always start with a clear subject line so that people can figure out exactly what the email is about without having to open it. Then, if you forward a forwarded email and you are talking about something different from the original subject change the subject line to reflect that.

Don’t BCC someone to be sneaky or snarky, it can come back to bite you. The person who was BCCd may not notice it was a BCC and forward the email. Your sneaky ways could end up being outed. Or, the person you sent it to directly may find out you were sharing what you wrote them behind their back. If you want someone to know what you wrote someone else, tell them directly.

That’s it for now. I’d love to hear your email pet peeves or embarrassing gaffes. We can all learn from them.

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Arden Clise is founder and president of Clise Etiquette. Her love for business etiquette began in previous jobs when she was frequently asked for etiquette, public speaking and business attire advice by executives and board members. The passion for etiquette took hold and compelled Arden to start a consulting business to help others. Read more >>

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