Avoid e-mail mistakes with a single setting

Have you ever experienced the heart-stopping realization that you've made a huge blunder with an e-mail message... right as you click the Send button? Control when Outlook sends messages to avoid embarrassing mistakes.

We've all done it, and regretted it -- sent an e-mail to the wrong person, sent an angry e-mail in haste, or sent an e-mail with mistakes. I don't mind confessing my most humiliating e-mail mistakes because they're so old:

  • I sent an article to the wrong publisher. Now, that's not horrible and as a freelancer, all my editors know that I work for other publishers, but it was still unpleasant because I looked stupid.
  • I used the wrong publication name when corresponding with an editor. She responded with a curt, "I work for... ," and I never received another assignment from her.

Most e-mail clients send e-mail as soon as you hit Send in the message window, and that's why we get into trouble. Instead of sending each e-mail immediately, let them sit in the outbox. Later (usually a few hours or so), review the messages one last time and then send them. I often find small and seemingly unimportant mistakes, but mistakes nonetheless. Occasionally, I find something more important and I count my lucky stars! Letting a message sit for a while, especially if you're angry when you respond, will give you a bit of time to rethink and perhaps, even save face.

Outlook is configured to send mail when you click Send in the New Message window. To reset this option so that you control when Outlook sends mail, do the following:

  1. From the Tools menu, choose Options.
  2. Click the Mail Setup tab.
  3. Click Send/Receive in the Send/Receive options.
  4. Uncheck the Include This Group In Send/Receive (F9) option in the Setting For Group "All Accounts" section. Most of us will set this for all accounts, but you can configure Outlook to handle each account differently.
  5. Click Close and then OK.

After unchecking the Send/Receive option, you must remember to click Send/Receive on the Standard toolbar to send mail. You can also set Outlook to send e-mail when you launch or close Outlook, or schedule it to send and receive e-mail at regular intervals, so be sure to consider those options as well. You'll still have to find the mistakes, but putting a little time between creating and sending messages makes it easier to catch mistakes you might otherwise miss.