Top Email Goofs

What's your most frequent email faux pas? A study recently commissioned by Microsoft shows that the most common email error might be that file that you forgot to attach. In a survey of 1000 American adults using different email programs, 41 percent said a typical reason they say "oops" after sending a message is that they've forgotten to include an attachment. The next most commonly cited errors in the poll were misspellings (34 percent) and sending a message before it was ready (32 percent). The survey focused on consumer rather than business use.

Other questions in the survey asked about calendar and address book use and about sending messages with multimedia content. More than half (52 percent) of the survey participants rely solely on their traditional hard-copy address book, rather than their email program's electronic address book, when planning to contact family or friends. Another 29 percent rely on their electronic address book, while 8 percent use both.

The vast majority (71 percent) still use paper calendars to track their appointments. Computer-based calendar programs got the nod from 25 percent of respondents, beating out PDAs (14 percent) by a nearly 2-to-1 margin.

Only 18 percent of those surveyed experience frequent problems opening attachments. More than 50 percent said they have trouble opening attachments rarely or never.

Using email to send multimedia content is still relatively uncommon. Although 25 percent said they send a photograph, movie clip, or audio file at least a few times a month, 62 percent said they send multimedia content no more than a couple of times a year. For those who do send pictures, the most common subject matter was self and family (44 percent), followed by random interesting shots (35 percent), the kids (34 percent), and weddings and other special occasions (32 percent).

It would be interesting for Microsoft to repeat the survey a year or two after Microsoft Office 2003 ships to see whether multimedia usage has increased. The next version of Office includes a Picture Library application that Microsoft hopes will make it easier to manage digital photos on your computer. One of the application's features is the ability to create an email message that automatically includes low-resolution versions of the pictures you want to share. (Unfortunately, the Beta 2 version triggers Outlook security prompts.)

You can take the poll yourself at and compare your answers with those of the survey respondents. In case you're wondering, I occasionally forget to send an attachment.


In response to last week's Commentary about the document workspace integration between Outlook 2003 and Windows SharePoint Services (WSS), alert Outlook UPDATE reader Michael Leary asked why Outlook must be connected to the Internet to create a document workspace when the user sends an attachment. Actually, Outlook just needs to be able to connect to the WSS server. If the server is on your company intranet, all you need is a local network connection.

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