What Should I Do When I Receive Someone’s Email?

If you have a popular name combination or just get a lot of emails at work, you are bound to get an email that is not meant for you. You can of course ignore this, but there are better ways to handle it.

For some compelling tips on how to tackle this all too common problem, I spoke with someone who’s no stranger to receiving emails intended for someone else: Liz Miller, who runs the smart blog Wrong Liz Miller . She says she always answers incorrect emails if she can:

I even had a macro for the standard answer: “Wrong, Liz Miller, please check your address and try again.” This looks more like good karma than anything else, as it doesn’t take too long, but it also (hopefully) ensures that the sender a) finds out his mistake and b) doesn’t repeat it later.

So this is all that is required in most cases. The sender will see that they made a mistake and will resend to the correct person. Or, if you know who the intended recipient is (for example, in an office situation), you can send it to them so they receive it on time . However, some people don’t learn from their mistakes. This is why Miller recommends sticking with these messages:

My biggest piece of advice with regards to bad emails is to zip them into a folder / shortcut if possible, because that’s a good way to track patterns (that is, if you get a lot from the same people). Also assume that someone creates an account for a site or service using your email; you may need the original registration email (with identifying details) to correct the error.

For frequent offenders who don’t take a hint, feel free to block them so that your inbox isn’t constantly filled with things you don’t have to waste time on. After all, you have no ethical obligation to do anything with the wrong email address, especially if you’ve already tried to point them in the right direction.


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