Oh, Reply All button. You're dangerously close to our more private friend Reply, and you've gotten a lot of people in trouble. In 2007, Spirit Airlines received an email from a customer complaining about a bad experience. The message was forwarded to the company's CEO, Ben Baldanza, who gave an employee these instructions:
Please respond, Pasquale, but we owe him nothing as far as I'm concerned. Let him tell the world how bad we are. He's never flown us before anyway and will be back when we save him a penny.
Except Baldanza inadvertently selected Reply All, and copied the customer on the message. Oops.
Florida attorney Robert Tankel learned that replying to a listserv is the same as hitting Reply All: "I saw a post which I meant to forward to a couple of my associates as an example of the type of post that needs to be barred from the listserv for lack of what I deemed to be intellectual curiosity," he says. "I'm sure I used some colorful longshoreman type language describing the person who posted it, and was generally rude."
The reply went to all members of the listserv, and Tankel was banned from posting for a year. "I was generally not harmed by it, but quite embarrassed as a number of prominent lawyers receive emails on the list," he says. "I take sole responsibility for the rudeness and apologized to the lawyer in question who made the original post."
If you've ever clicked Reply All and Send on an email and regretted it a fraction of a second later, there are a few things you can now do to save face.
Hide the button.
Outlook has a way of hiding your Reply All button so you can't make the bad choice. If you want to reply to everyone, you'll have to copy and paste their email addresses into the To field. That should slow you down.
Gmail has an Undo Send function that can be used with its email platform, you just need to find and enable it.
From your Gmail account, click the gear icon in the upper-right corner and choose Settings. About a third of the way down under the General tab, you'll find Undo Send. Click the box to Enable Undo Send and then select your cancellation period. The choices are 5, 10, 20, or 30 seconds (psst, pick 30), and this is the amount of time you'll have to recall your email before it's delivered. Once you've updated your settings, scroll down to the bottom of the screen and click Save Changes.
When you send an email, a box will appear at the top of your inbox that lets you Undo or View Message. If you select Undo you have a chance to edit and resend or delete.
Recall Your email.
If 30 seconds isn't long enough, there are two apps that convert the text of your message into an image, deliver it through their servers, and allow you to undo your message by deleting the image, leaving a blank email.
Criptext is a free Gmail plug-in that is available for Chrome and (beta) Safari. It allows you to recall an email even after it's been opened. That means the receiver may have read your email, but he or she won't keep a copy in their inbox. Criptext also encrypts your message and attachments, and tracks when your email has been opened and your attachments downloaded. You can also set this app to expire a message after a certain amount of time.
UnSend.it works with more browsers and email providers than Criptext, and it offers most of the same features, including tracking and expiration. The only thing it doesn't do is encrypt messages and attachments. Simply click the Unsend button, and it's like your email never even happened.
If don't have a handy app to recall the message you just sent to the masses, April Masini, author of the AskApril advice column, says it's time for damage control.
" 'Oops' is not a big enough articulation of that faux pas, and another mass blast is just going to create the kind of urban legend you don't want to be known for," she says, adding that you should write each person individually and apologize instead. "Say, 'I'm embarrassed and I'm putting myself in a timeout for 10 minutes, right after I hit this send button to tell you to please disregard the former email and expect better from me from now on!'"
Embarrassment is OK, if you take it as a warning. "Slow down; you're moving too fast," Masini says. "If you don't, expect more of the same, with worse consequences. It's fine to be known for a slip up, but not an inability to send an email correctly."