As we all know, we should treat emails with the same patience and crafting time as a normal letter, but sometimes I just catch something right after I send the email. One of those things has been misaddressing someone. Here are a couple scenarios:

  • Mixed first/last name. For John Smith, instead of writing Dear John, or Dear Mr. Smith, I write Dear Smith.

  • Mixed Ms with Mr, so instead of Ms. Doe for (Ms.) Casey Doe, I write Mr. Doe.

  • Misspellings (self explanatory)

So for the first two scenarios, I'm inclined to send a follow-up email that succinctly just says something along the lines of "I noticed I've mixed up blah blah, apologies, coffee hasn't kicked in yet" (which has been true in the few occasions it has happened).

But what are your thoughts on this? Should you just let it pass and hope they don't take insult in it? Or a short acknowledgement and apology is better?

Edit: In US, some people see as inappropriate addressing someone by just last name. It might be because it is what happens when you're just a recruit in the military (it implies you're "lower ranking")


Only follow up if the omission is important. People might not think that the correction is important enough to have you send them another email, or assume that your fingers got themselves tied up (everyone does this).

You following up with corrections for minor mistakes only reinforces the idea that you don't proof-read your emails until after you've sent them.

Do what the rest of us do - read your email over before you send it. If you send it to more than a couple of people, read it twice before sending.

  • 2
    dang, beat me to it. +1 – Richard Says Reinstate Monica Sep 15 '17 at 13:52
  • Thanks for the reply, I'm personally very cautious on my emails, but as you can tell this isn't a typo or formatting, just something that easily sneaks by.. in my 10+ years this has happened twice, I was wondering what would be better. The issue is, the omission is only "important" if the receiver sees it as disrespectful... And that's only something we can guess if we don't know them. – Esteban Sep 15 '17 at 13:53
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    I judge 'important' as some basic facts being wrong in the email, or you forgot to attach a file, or didn't say/ask something you should have done. Making minor grammar/spelling mistakes or getting someone's name wrong isn't worth of a follow-up correction. – user44108 Sep 15 '17 at 13:55
  • Especially a case like the OP's is usually not very major. People tend to be used to being incorrectly addressed or having their name misspelled. Such mistakes are usually corrected organically: you tend to notice misspelling someone's name when you see their signature in the reply, so next time you'll type it right. – Cronax Sep 15 '17 at 14:15

If the mistake significantly changes the meaning of the communication (e.g. $1000 instead of $100, or wrong title on a legal letter) then a correction is warranted.

If the recipient may take serious offence then an unsolicited apology would seem to be the appropriate route. Same if the mistake is minor but the communication is particularly important. How you judge this is going to be dependent on the norms in your society, individuals involved and other context.

Otherwise, if the mistake is minor then drawing attention to it could draw attention away from the real point of the email. In the situations I would rarely do anything other than make sure not to make the same mistake next time.


In the cultures I am familiar with, the best thing to do with a faux pas is to ignore it. If the person corrects you, then apologize, but otherwise, the person is likely doing the polite thing and ignoring it.

In SUBSEQUENT emails, simply do the correct thing MS Doe, Mr. Smith, et cetera.

The omission of title in US culture is not about rank, but is just seen as disrespectful in general. However, if address as "Dear Smith", it will be used as an oversight as the inclusion of "Dear" indicates an attempt to be respectful so the omission of title will be assumed to merely be a mistake. Addressing someone simply as "Smith", for example, would be viewed as insulting.

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