By Jeb Bladine • President / Publisher • 

Saving yourself from e-mail embarrassment

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Someone out there will thank me for writing this column. Maybe not today, maybe not even this year, but someday. So, in advance, you’re welcome.

Likely, I’m just late to the party. Most high-volume e-mail users probably know they can set an automatic hold on messages, in minutes, beginning after they hit the “Send” button. I didn’t know.

There’s a TV ad with a guy accidentally hitting “Reply All,” then panicking when he realizes his private e-mail response is headed to a group of strangers. He launches himself into time and space at warp speed, smashing computer after computer to stop people from reading his errant message.

I’ve never reached quite that level of desperation, but I have been mortified more than once by the e-mail goblins. People who send hundreds or thousands of e-mails have had similar experiences, with results ranging from mild embarrassment to abject humiliation.

It can happen in an instant in several different ways, including the inadvertent “Reply All” mistake described above. One variation is careless selection of the wrong recipient when that drop-down menu of similar names appears below the “To” box.

The most reckless messaging habit is rewriting and forwarding someone else’s e-mail, with original content in place for quick reference. With fingers moving faster than brain, there’s always the risk of hitting “Send” before erasing some content that should never have gone out.

Those are some of the real bonehead e-mail moves. The more common blunder, of course, is simply sending, on purpose, a message you should have reconsidered, rewritten or discarded. When that happens, you usually know it within the first 10 seconds after hitting “Send.”

Enter the auto-delay function.

Once alerted to that option, I still had to search for access to a 10-step rule-setting process inside my e-mail program. There was the added benefit of learning all kinds of new ways to manage those pesky spam messages colonizing my computer.

Knowing the limits of my attention span, I set the delay to two minutes. So, beginning today, I have at least a small measure of protection against my own mechanical mistakes or mental folly.

Here’s hoping at least one reader realizes the potential, installs a similar rule and avoids one of those mind-numbing experiences that occurs when you send the wrong message to the wrong people at the wrong time.

Jeb Bladine can be reached at or 503-687-1223.

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