E-mail Etiquette: Turn off Type-Ahead

E-mail has seemingly boundless attributes and has shaped the face of modern correspondence, but it can create unequaled debacles. In the right hands, e-mail is a speedy and effective way to pass news and keep in touch. But careless fingers can send sensitive material into the wrong in-box, clog up disk drive space and spoil relationships.

Even though everyone uses it these days, it's worth stepping back, looking at the way we communicate with each other, and figuring out how that can be refined and improved. This week, I'll look more closely at e-mail etiquette and practices and offer a few tips and tools to help you massage the most common missives you send in any given day.

First up: turn off type-ahead.

Most e-mail programs have a type-ahead, or auto-complete, function that remembers and stores addresses you send to. When you begin to enter a previously contacted address, your e-mail program will recognize it and offer suggestions for completing the text for you. This is meant as a time-saver, but it could get you in trouble if you continue to be nudged with the wrong address. You might jut choose the wrong one.

By sending a message to the wrong person, or hundreds of unintended recipients, you can create wasted time and disk space, not to mention a heap of trouble.

Be especially careful of group distribution lists, which can be a hazard if you work for a large organization. You may have a message - either incriminating or innocuous - that you mistakenly send to a larger group of people if you accidentally send it to a distribution list rather than an individual.

You can turn off type-ahead altogether, if your e-mail program will let you. Each one is different. Gmail doesn't let you turn off auto-complete (someone correct me if you have different information - all I can find is others complaining about this). But you can delete stored e-mail addresses from the drop-down box by using the arrow keys of the address you want to delete, and then press the Delete button.

How to turn off auto-complete in Outlook 2003/2007:

  1. On the Tools menu, click Options.
  2. Click E-mail Options, and then click Advanced E-mail Options.
  3. Under When sending a message, clear the Suggest names while completing To, Cc, and Bcc fields check box.

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