Gmail Wants You to Stop Embarrassing Yourself

Q: I often send emails to the wrong person because their address is so similar to my own. How can I put an end to this before I accidentally pass along some embarrassing information?

GmailLogo.jpgA: I send a lot of emails to myself. It's one of the few ways that I can remember to get anything done (or that was the case, at least, back when I was able to get through all of my incoming mail and periodically clear out my inbox). And sometimes, when quickly filling in the "To" field on a message, I'll accidentally send something meant for myself to another contact whose email address begins with the same letter as my name. It can be embarrassing.

On Wednesday, Gmail decided to make two popular Gmail Labs features permanent and began slowly rolling them out to all users. (By the time you read this, they should be activated on your personal account. If not, give it another day or two.) "Don't forget Bob" and "Got the wrong Bob?" as the features are called, aim to "prevent you from making two common mistakes: forgetting to include someone on an email, and sending a message to the wrong person with a similar name to the person you meant to email -- like emailing Bob (your boss) instead of Bob (your friend)," according to the official Gmail blog.

More from the Gmail blog: "We've received quite a bit of positive feedback from people who avoided some embarrassing situations thanks to these features. ...[A]s you type in your recipients, Gmail will automatically make suggestions based on the groups of people you email most often. When you see a suggestion to add a person you've forgotten, all you have to do is click on their name to add them. Similarly, if you click on a suggestion to replace a mistakenly added recipient, the proverbial 'wrong Bob' will be replaced by the right one."

The feature is already live for my personal inbox and, while it hasn't saved me yet, it's clear that it's a smart addition. Without being obnoxious, it subtly suggests additions to emails before you get there. Always sending messages to the same five coworkers? By the time you enter two or three, Gmail will start suggesting you add the others based on past habits. You wouldn't want to leave one out.

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Nicholas Jackson is a former associate editor at The Atlantic.

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