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Autofill: The Good and the Bad

Posted by Peter Post  September 24, 2013 07:00 AM

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I wandered into the Damn You Autocorrect website. Funny stuff. My guess is we’ve all been the victim of autocorrect gone wild at one time or another. The point I like to make in talks about digital technology is that whereas autocorrect can be funny though embarrassing at times, it’s cousin, autofill, which works its magic on the TO field in emails, is downright dangerous.

I got talking about autofill one day at the Emily Post offices and heard a story that drives home how careful everyone should be, not just with the text and subject lines of an email, but with the intended recipient as well.

A young gentleman was introduced to a prospective employer at a job fair. The employer was impressed and asked the young man to come to the business for an interview. It turns out the young man’s good friend, Hazel, I’ll call her, worked as the employer’s administrative assistant. So he sent her an email asking her for any insights she might have to help him in the interview. She wrote back to him explaining in detail that her boss was a slob who was puffed up with his own self-importance. Except for him she really liked the place.

And then she filled in the TO field, or rather, autofill did it for her. Unfortunately, her friend and her boss had the same first name. She typed the first couple of letters, autofill did the rest and she hit enter and then send.

Big mistake. The email went to her boss rather than her friend. She was out of a job by the end of the day.

Autofill—it’s great because it speeds up typing and avoids misspelling names or email addresses, but it requires constant vigilance on your part not to make the same mistake as Hazel.

This blog is not written or edited by or the Boston Globe.
The author is solely responsible for the content.

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About the author

Since 2004, Peter Post has tackled readers' questions in The Boston Sunday Globe's weekly business etiquette advice column, Etiquette at Work. Post is the co-author of "The Etiquette Advantage in Business" and conducts business etiquette seminars across the country. In October 2003 his book "Essential Manners For Men" was released and quickly became a New York Times best seller. He is also the author of "Essential Manners for Couples," "Playing Through–A Guide to the Unwritten Rules of Golf," and co-author of "A Wedding Like No Other." Post is Emily Post's great-grandson. His media appearances include "CBS Sunday Morning," CBS's "The Early Show," NBC's "Today," ABC's "Good Morning America," and "Fox News."

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