One of the plot lines in last night’s Modern Family revolved around the repercussions of an email that was sent before it was finished. This reminded me a trick I use to avoid the problem, so I thought I would share it.
Computers are full of obscure keyboard commands that will execute commands, including sending an email. While they are big time savers and can help cut down on repetitive strain injuries, they can also have horrible repercussions if you hit them accidentally. For example, in Outlook, if you hit Alt-S, your email will be sent immediately. Since Alt is also an accelerator for many other keyboard commands, as well as for manipulating the menus without a mouse, I’ve accidentally sent emails more than a few times. Other email programs and Gmail and Yahoo! Mail have their own auto-send accelerators.
Usually, an email sent too early is just humorous, and people can see that the email was cut off in mid-composition. However, there are times where you are addressing a delicate subject or communicating with a client, and you find yourself reviewing it over and over to get it just right. Premature sending could be a major embarrassment.
The solution I use (and Aviva now uses as well), is to put a fake sender in the recipient list while composing the message. For example, if you put in some gibberish like “blah” on the CC list, any attempt to send the email will fail. “Blah” is not a valid email address, and the email client will prompt you to fix the email address before continuing. When you feel the email is perfect, you can remove the fake address and send the message.
The only hitch I have had with this silly little trick is that recently my company hired someone with the last name “Blaha”, and when I put in “blah” in the address bar, Outlook helpfully auto-completes to fill in this person’s name. Now I use “blooga” instead.