Five awkward emails Google's 'Undo Send' will save you from

A career-saving move ?

The wheel, the telegram and now, Google’s “Undo Send” email feature. There’s nothing like an invention that truly changes the fabric of life. Even better are those that save us: hydraulic braking, say, or rehab.

This is the news that the tech giant is rolling out a feature allowing users to pull back emails – up to 30 seconds after hitting send. The feature has been around for a while, but hidden in Google’s labs section.

Those who didn’t already know about it, however, can breathe a sigh of relief knowing future mess-ups can be averted. Here are five scenarios that can now be contained before they contaminate. Good luck.

The typo save

We’re all familiar with autocorrect, and its pesky habit of dropping awkward bombs into conversations. There are websites dedicated to the best and funniest. Now that many of us send emails from mobile or tablet devices, awkward autocorrects have become an ever present threat. Not only that, but quick typing on a desktop or laptop computer can also result in true mortification.

The worst recipients? Parents and bosses. It’s not unheard of for people to be disciplined at work for breaching email etiquette, and though a typo is probably not a firing offence, it can cause huge embarrassment.

Unfortunately, both of the following examples of typos in emails sent to bosses are true. I know one woman, who signed off an email to her (female, well endowed) boss with: “Thanks for your help, I know how busty you are”. Busy. She meant busy.

Perhaps even worse, another acquaintance was punished by the proximity of the “g” and “t” keys when she bid someone “king retards”, instead of kind regards.

I wish I was making these up; I am not. Please feel free to leave your tpyso in the therda blow.

Hauling back a reply all

If there’s one thing more irritating than slow walkers, it’s people who consistently reply all. Nobody wants to be that person. The dawning mortification on realising that you’ve sent the entire office something that 90% of them do not care about is brutal.

If someone throws out an open invitation, a person really does not have to RSVP to everybody. Likewise, if someone sends a company-wide email in a bid to find a lost iPhone, I don’t need 10,000 responses of “sorry, no”. If you’re going to email everyone back, at least have actually come up with the goods. FFS.

Awkward essays to ex lovers

A lot of writers responded to Google’s announcement with pieces on how it was now easy to recall drunken emails sent to exes or suitors. But, come on, who emails someone in that situation? That’s more of a being absolutely wasted texting situation. A slurred voicemail.

The true danger isn’t in a sloppy, one line email sent when drunk, it’s the 2,000 word treatise on why you and your ex should still be together. How do I love thee? Let me count the ways … for, like, 10 scrollable minutes.

At the time, you’re not even inebriated, God help you. These emails should always remain in drafts folders. For one thing, romance translates better via quill and ink, and pixels will never match that, hence why sending an e-card is just a way of telling someone you don’t like them (but while simultaneously wishing them a happy birthday!)

Second, let’s say you get famous. That email is printable. That email is publishable. Click send. Click undo send. It ain’t worth it, fella.

Lost in translation

The problem with the written word, especially electronically, is that some things can get lost in translation. Without the aid of body language, or being able to read facial expressions, it can be tricky to decipher the tone of a communication.

And that’s why we end up writing emails with loads of exclamation marks so that people know we are joking!!!! Or using *asterisks* for emphasis in case people think we are SHOUTING. Or put kisses xxx on the end of work emails to soften the awful request just made, and then wondering whether that’s inappropriate. Ditto any kind of emoticon. ;-)

The great thing about Undo Send is that if you quickly realise seconds after sending that an email to your best friend or colleague has come across rude as hell, the email can be recalled. Likewise, if you absolutely didn’t mean that double smiley to be a come on to Ben in HR, it’s retrievable.

Sending to wrong recipient

I’ve saved the worst till last, like some kind of listicle-writing sadist. Even the subhead for this section makes me shudder. Whether it’s a smutty email ending up in the inbox of the person who gave birth to you (not recoverable from), or an email to a senior manager slagging off said senior manager, there is nothing, except for maybe having to inform an ex of an STI, that is more excruciating.

This is where the unsend feature really comes into its own, and could alter your life. By which I mean, stop you being fired, and allowing you to continue maintaining the comfort of eye contact between you and close family members.

Let us know your email howlers in the comments below, but please note, Guardian comments cannot be unposted for up to 30 seconds.

Powered by article was written by Hannah Jane Parkinson, for on Wednesday 24th June 2015 16.40 Europe/ © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010


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