The worst email I ever sent

Once upon a time, and I have to be very careful about how I tell this,  I sent a group of people the worst email of my life.

Very few people know about it, and those who do are the people I can trust to laugh it off and move on with life.

I’m sure there are some who, if they knew–even though it happened many, many years ago–their heads would explode.

What I do know is that I am not the only person to ever do this–to send an email I wish had not gone out; whether, as in my case, it involved wording–or more specifically, spelling, or in others that dreaded “reply all” box was ticked.

But it happened and I’m still here, and although I’d like to say that it hasn’t happened since….well……that wouldn’t exactly be true.

It happened more than a decade ago.  I was working on a team preparing for a large, high-profile event (I used to do that a lot–can still pull it off if I must). Part of my job was to coordinate a video celebrating a significant achievement.

And we were shooting high.  I was asked to reach out to maybe six or eight people all told: political leaders—-people in the White House and the Canadian Parliament;  business leaders and incredibly intelligent academics…that sort of person–you get the idea–these were well-placed individuals.

I crafted a very carefully worded invitation with a request to be part of our program–took me hours to write and edit, but in the end, it was excellent–to the extent that all, save for one (in the White House), agreed to participate.

It’s probably a good thing these high-profile types have people managing their mail.

Here’s what happened.  The message was so good (if I do say so myself), and I had crafted it in a way that all I had to do was swap out the name in the salutation and once again at the end of the letter, hit forward and remove the fw, and move on to the next.  Probably saved myself a good five to ten minutes doing that.

It wasn’t until I got home and was barbecuing dinner (funny how we remember certain things–I was grilling vegetables–asparagus, I think) when I decided to look at my phone, I suppose to see if anyone had replied to my message from earlier in the afternoon.

And that’s when I saw it.

In the subject line, I had left out one little letter.

It was an “L”

And so the word PUBLIC…..wasn’t the word PUBLIC anymore.

Oh. My. God.

World leaders, business tycoons, really smart people–it went to all of them, because I had done it in the first message.

What did I do, after I picked my gut up off the floor?

I raced to my office, sent a follow up email with subject line to the effect of UPDATE: and I added the “L” to the subject…and gave some preamble about “errors in the previous version of the email” before re-posting the otherwise perfect message.

Well, none of the big people ever saw it, and only one EA caught it and we had a good laugh.  I spent the next month waiting for someone to freak out, but it never came.

Dodged a bullet for sure.

Now as I say, I’d like to say I never did it again, but I can be a little sloppy with these things…and just last summer I wrote a note about something making a public debut. Yes, again without the “L”.  Only one sharp-eyed editor caught it, and again we had a little chuckle.

If she only knew.

Now this wasn’t one that spellcheck would have found, because both are words. I think computers need to build in a “sensibility” check, as in, “does this even make sense?” as well.

For now, I’ve simply decided I will never use either word in an email again. Or at the very least, I will type very carefully, as any time the word comes up, that’s what comes into my mind.

How about you?  What’s the worst email you ever sent?

I know I’m not the only one.

2 thoughts on “The worst email I ever sent

  1. MD

    I had just been put in charge of approving the all-staff messages. One went out, and then I saw a similar one and approved it again thinking the first hadn’t been successful. Turned out to be a reply-all response from someone who wasn’t too pleased at receiving the first email and I forwarded their snarky reply back out to 4000 or so staff! Whoops.

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