Closing the email barn door?

People who try to recall an email after they’ve sent it might think it’s a good idea to close the barn doors after the horses have all fled.

That bit of snark comes courtesy of email systems that boast “recall” tools. I tried the one in Microsoft Outlook about a decade ago. It didn’t work for me, and I dealt with the fallout from a misunderstanding.

So I switched tack. Now I prevent fallout from poorly worded emails so I don’t have to perform after-the-fact damage control.

How do I do that, you ask? Simple: I wait an hour or more between the time I draft an important email and the time I send it. Reading it with “fresh eyes” helps me prevent most (not all) email mistakes.

I don’t do this with all emails. Sometimes I send quick, innocuous-enough messages with no real review. Every now and then a typo seeps in. But when the message and the recipient matter (especially in business) and the topic merits deep thought, I slow down.

I regularly used two methods to help me make sure I send the thoughts I want to convey. Both involve preventing emails from being sent until I feel they’re ready.

Write the email offline

I often write messages in a text editor. We all have these on our computers. They come with names like Notepad (Windows), TextEdit (Mac) and Microsoft Word (both Windows and Mac). The beauty of text editors (sans plugins) is that they don’t have an easy-to-access Send feature. Just save the message and set it aside for later review and sending.

Delete all recipients in a reply

You can write a reply in an email as long as it has no email addresses in the To, cc or bcc lines. If these fields are empty, your email software can’t send the message anywhere. You can then save the message in the Drafts folder for later review. Note: some email programs don’t show the Drafts folder unless you have actually saved one or more drafts.

How do you keep yourself from landing in email-fueled hot water? Do you use email recall systems that work? Or have you become a maestro at smoothing ruffled feathers? Let me know in the comments below.

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