NPR logo 23 Things Not To Write In An E-mail


23 Things Not To Write In An E-mail

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Every e-mail you write could wind up in court. Everybody knows this, but people still act like it will never happen to them.

If you can't help yourself — if you just have to write that incriminating e-mail — you can at least avoid a few obvious red flags.

The lawyer appointed to figure out what went wrong at Lehman Brothers used lots of different search terms to mine 34 million pages of documents from the bank, Bloomberg News recently pointed out.

The searches are described in great detail starting on p. 158 of this section of the examiner's report. While some are technical — phrases like "mark to market," and the names of banks, auditors and the like — others are pretty general.

One search in particular targeted a bunch of words and phrases that anybody might use in an incriminating e-mail. They are:

  • stupid
  • huge mistake
  • big mistake
  • dumb
  • can't believe
  • cannot believe
  • serious trouble
  • big trouble
  • unsalvageable
  • shocked
  • speechless
  • too late
  • uncomfortable
  • not comfortable
  • I don't think we should
  • very sensitive
  • highly sensitive
  • very confidential
  • highly confidential
  • do not share this
  • don't share this
  • between you and me
  • just between us