6th June 2018

How can you prevent making mistakes in emails?

Emails are an essential part of our day-to-day work and it’s important we avoid making mistakes to communicate effectively. But there are many ways emails can go wrong and cause unexpected problems and frustration. Have you ever sent a message and suddenly realised you’ve addressed it to the wrong person, or you’ve forgotten to attach some essential files? I’ve made both these mistakes - and more - with my own emails, but over time have trained myself how to stop making the same errors. To avoid spending time doing re-work and be more productive, here are three simple, useful tips you can use when sending your next message.


When checking an email, you need a focussed mindset. We’re all guilty of briefly scanning over text, simply because of the pressures of work. The problem is that we often don’t properly check. Train yourself to read your own writing critically so you pick up every single mistake. Remind yourself ‘there is a mistake here somewhere, and I am going to find it’. If you are aware of the possibility of there being errors in your emails before you press ‘send’, you can prevent them from doing harm.


It’s also important to have a methodology when you check an email. My own mental checklist consists of these three things:

Firstly, check the critical factors. These are essential details which, if inaccurate, could cause problems. Check your recipient’s name is exact, that you have the precise email address, and that any important facts or figures, like money for example, do not contain errors. Asking yourself simple questions, like ‘is the decimal point where it should be?’ and ‘have I transposed any numbers?’ will heighten your awareness of the possibility of error.

Secondly, check the operational necessities. If you wish to get an answer from your colleague or customer, write to them in a way that makes sense. Will they understand you and know how to reply? All too often, we send messages that are unnecessary or waste time, so ask yourself if the content is relevant or if the message needs sending at all.

Thirdly, check the professional touches. Your layout, language and presentation should represent who you are as a person. Check for spelling mistakes, as silly errors like this can damage your personal reputation and weaken your professional intelligence and authority. Also, remember to remove any email threads below, if they contain information you don’t wish your recipient to see.

Don’t just scan over your writing once. Use this mental checklist with the three sub-steps to become more attentive to detail and more mindful of how you present yourself. This process will only take a few extra minutes, and will save you time in the future otherwise spent correcting errors.


Politeness is key when you write to your colleagues, boss, or customers, but you may sometimes be guilty of rambling or using unnecessarily embellished language. Keep your message clear and concise by demonstrating your points in as few words as possible. Read your message back and ask yourself ‘would I know what I needed to do if I received this?’ Make things straightforward for your recipient so it’s easier and quicker for them to reply.

Nobody intends to make mistakes in their work, but all too often errors slip through the net. This is simply because you may not be checking your work properly. So, try applying these tips with your next email. Check with the right mindset, attend to the critical factors, operational necessities and professional touches, and keep your message concise. With this attitude, you’ll get useful responses, maintain positive working relationships, and improve your personal effectiveness.


Alice Hubbard, Scott Bradbury Ltd | June 2018


About Accuracy Skills

Many of the ideas touched on in this short article are included in our one-day workshop Preventing Mistakes at Work. You can see details of this programme here.

Our core programmes Developing an Eye for Accuracy (about reducing data error) and Preventing Mistakes at Work (about reducing human error) enable participants to work accurately and efficiently, and are proven to reduce mistakes. They include learning about overcoming distractions, developing concentration skills and managing the causes of error-inducing stress.

www.accuracyprogramme.co.uk | @AccuracySkills | accuracy@scottbradbury.co.uk

How can you prevent making mistakes in emails?

Other Recent Posts

How can you defeat distractions?

Posted: April 30, 2018, 9:59 a.m.

Distractions and interruptions are an inevitable part of your working day. Humans are designed to be easily distracted, yet we expect ourselves to do work that requires complete focus. Your attention is drawn away from a task when the phone rings, or when your colleague offers a cup of tea, or when your manager asks a question. Interruptions like these might be small, but they disturb your train of thought, and have a big impact on your personal effectiveness. Let’s talk about three steps you can take to minimise distractions and get the job done.

You won't say anything, will you?

Posted: April 2, 2018, 9:34 a.m.

Ever been asked to cover for a cheating colleague or dubious workplace activity? If the television cameras hadn’t picked up the ball tampering in Steve Smith’s Australian cricket team last month maybe we wouldn’t know about it. But others in the team apparently did. Imagine being in a close-knit team, working together towards an agreed goal, and then being asked by one of your teammates to cheat for them, for the ‘good’ of the team. How would you react?

Why do I forget things?

Posted: April 2, 2018, midnight

Forgetting to do something is not surprising in our crowded, demanding day. Distractions, interruptions and an overwhelming array of things ‘to-do’, sometimes result in forgetfulness. A lot of mistakes emanate from oversights. Omission is one of the error-prevention topics we get asked about most. In this short article and accompanying video blog, we explore why we forget and how to ensure timely recall.

How can I be more productive?

Posted: March 26, 2018, 4:45 p.m.

We all wish we could be more efficient with our time, and there’s a vast array of advice out there telling us how. But which of it is genuinely useful? I’m going to target five steps you can take right away to improve your personal effectiveness; not just for work, but in all aspects of life. We can all improve our attention to detail and concentration skills.

Being a participant at Developing an Eye for Accuracy: What I Learnt

Posted: Feb. 22, 2018, 2:53 p.m.

Today I attended Scott Bradbury’s flagship programme Developing an Eye for Accuracy. The other participants were from Avnet, an information services and technology company who design, supply and deliver stock to contract manufacturers around the world. I learnt a great deal from trainer, Greg Fradd, who taught me genuinely useful techniques for transferring information in my own work. If you’d like to find out how I got on, keep reading!