The Perils of Email Auto-Fill

Illustration by Stephen Savage

Excerpt from this article:

…So it is with one small email “feature” that we cannot do without, yet has cost almost everyone who has ever texted or emailed a moment of heart-stopping panic. I’m speaking of auto-fill.

It is often confused with auto-correct. Here’s the difference: Auto-fill fills in names and information based on just a few keystrokes; auto-correct does, too, but it also corrects (and predicts) writing in the body of a note.

…In some ways auto-fill may be the more problematic function, leading to not just semantic misunderstandings but to entire passels of information being dispatched to the wrong people.

…There is a flip side to auto-fill, when we are not the perpetrators of a gaffe but the unwitting participants, caught in email chains we have absolutely no business being in. “This happens a lot if you have a really common name like Ann,” said the writer Ann Leary, who has borne gleeful and illegitimate witness to various high-stakes real estate deals and publishing negotiations.