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Every once in a while, I will get an email from a customer that includes a misspelt version of the name of my employer in the subject. Sometimes, the misspellings are very creative. These emails will usually have multiple members of the customer's team copied in on them, and require a "Reply All" response from me.

Is there anything wrong with me fixing the spelling mistake in the subject of the email in this kind of a scenario? I can see two potential issues with doing this, and I'd love to hear any thoughts on them and of course any other potential issues that I haven't thought of.

  1. Would the sender be embarrassed or offended?

  2. Would the change in the subject line affect email clients, so that the response is not included as part of the email chain?

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Do not change the subject.

To add to what the other answers are missing, there is another important reason to not change the subject line.

Many people and organizations use subject lines as part of their email organization. Changes to a subject line frequently cause email chains to fragment into multiple chains. This will occasionally cause a missed email or confusion.

Even for direct business related emails where subject lines contain important information, don't change it to correct other people's mistakes. Ask them to resend it with the correction if it is important. If, for instance, they had a totally different company name instead of a misspelled one.

Subject lines in email clients are used as much more than titles to the email. They are frequently used as important metadata for the sorting, storage, and retrieval of email conversations.

If the correction is only to correct a minor mistake, it comes off as pedantic. The sender may be embarrassed as well, depending on the situation. My own experience shows anecdotally that minor corrections like that never have a net positive and usually at best come out a wash.

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I believe a safe policy in general, is to let people fix their own mistakes. You notify them privately with "Hey X, just F.Y.I, the company name is Y".

It would appear much better if the originally sender of the email sent a second email out-of-the-blue stating something like "Apologies, misspelled X. Changing email title".

This actually makes the person with the mistake look like they found and fixed the issue themselves, which is a more favorable view.

For e-mail clients being affected, yes some will.

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Leave the subject unaltered.

If you would like to point out that the company name is misspelled, you can always make note of it in the body of the email when you reply. You can preface your reply with something like:

Just a quick clarification, the correct company name is X

After that, you continue with your regular reply and don't mention this again.

As for your specific questions:

Would the sender be embarrassed or offended?

They may possibly be embarrassed. Only someone unreasonable would be offended. Since these are reply-all emails, to avoid publicly embarrassing the sender you can reply to the email as you normally would ( no mention of any spelling errors ) and then send a second reply to only the sender clarifying the correct company name spelling.

Would the change in the subject line affect email clients, so that the response is not included as part of the email chain?

This depends on your email client and how they handle changes to the subject. It's best to leave things as is, especially if you are unsure how it would affect how the email client handles the message.

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Would the sender be embarrassed or offended?

Quite possibly. Why would you take such a risk with a customer?

What possible advantage would there be to correcting the spelling?

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It depends:

  1. If the email and reply are only between you and the customer, leave the error as-is in the subject and correct it kindly in the body of your reply.
  2. If there are others CC'd on the message, or if you must add others in for your reply, you're representing your own company and should correct the error. You're also helping the other members of the customer's team to know correctly who they're dealing with.

Also:

I frequently receive emails with unclear or inappropriate subjects, typically something like "Re: Emailing: Updated Sketch.pdf" that could be relating to just about anything. I will often revise it to help me locate the message thread in the future and help other people (those CC'd or who I've "looped in") to understand the actual subject. I will do it in a way that preserves the initial subject like: "Re: Updated equipment layouts from XYZ mfg. with client input (was Re: Emailing: Updated Sketch.pdf)"

And further:

Never correct errors in the quoted body of someone else's message.

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  • Hey downvoters, how about a comment?
    – Theodore
    Feb 1, 2023 at 14:20
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    You've been downvoted by people who write such subjects as in your example :P "image", "PowerPoint" LOL I hate them and I rewrite them too so +1 for being a good subject writer.
    – red-shield
    Aug 29, 2023 at 7:15

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