How to Respond to Incorrectly Addressed Emails

Incorrectly addressed emails can arise from simple things like mistakes in spelling, an incorrectly placed hyphen or outright misunderstanding of job roles and functions.  What do you do if you receive an email but realize from the content that the email isn’t meant for you? Should you respond, ignore the email or forward it to the intended recipient? What if you have no idea what the email is saying or who it could possibly be intended for?  These are everyday situations that occur all too often so we’ve trawled the net to find expert advice on handling such emails.

Considerations for Handling Incorrectly Addressed Emails

Business professionals from diverse backgrounds weighed in on the various situations that could lead to incorrectly addressed emails and considerations to keep in mind when an email is sent to the wrong recipient.  Here are the key points:

Maintaining Professionalism

As a busy professional who is handling hundreds of emails every day, incorrectly addressed emails and those sent to you mistakenly can seem like a waste of your time and distraction from other pressing issues.  However, keep in mind that your handling of the emails you receive, even those incorrectly sent to you, is a reflection of you and your organization.

Senders from outside your organization maybe existing or potential customers, therefore, your response or lack of will reflect on your organization positively or negatively.  Senders from within your organization also depend on you to react in a supportive and professional manner.  An urgent email delivered to the wrong recipient could lead to massive loses if handled wrongly.

Therefore the best approach for handling incorrectly addressed emails is to provide a short, courteous and helpful response to the sender informing them of the error and providing the proper address or directing them to the right source of information/support.

Sample: Short Courteous Response to an Incorrectly Addressed Email

Here's a sample of a short courteous response to an incorrectly addressed email:

Dear Matt,

Kindly verify the email address.  I believe this email is intended for a different Elizabeth.

I have copied Elizabeth Andrew in Finance as I believe this may be intended for her.

Please let me know if I can be of further assistance.


Elizabeth Adam



Origin of the Incorrectly Addressed Email

Emails from outside the organization, as mentioned above, are an opportunity to reinforce and project your organizational culture and brand image.  Responding professionally and being helpful is essential to communicate that you care about your customers.  This entails taking the time to determine the proper person/function the sender is trying to reach and providing the needed information/direction or forwarding the email to the proper person for action.

An incorrectly addressed email from within your organization is also a test of your personality and understanding of your organizational culture.  Various professionals agree that an incorrectly addressed email from a superior should be treated with tact and utmost politeness while informing the superior of the mistake.

Phishing Concerns with Incorrectly Addressed Emails

Professionals must be careful about the information shared when responding to incorrectly shared emails as some emails may be phishing emails.  Various organizations have official policies about disclosing rank/position to person’s outside of the organization.  Whether or not your company has an official position about the information you share via email, be mindful of the fact that some emails may be deliberately sent to gather data.

How to Respond to Incorrectly Addressed Emails

Here are some tips to help you craft a professional response to an incorrectly addressed email:

Maintain Email Etiquette and Professionalism


Maintain a warm and courteous tone while responding to an email sent to you by mistake.  Be sensitive to the content of the email.  Respond to an urgent email sent to you mistakenly with the same urgency to communicate your empathy for the sender.  Though you may not be the appropriate person to handle a customer issue, if you receive a customer issue in error it would be unprofessional to simply pass the bulk without ensuring the customer's need is met.

Clarify and Point out the Error in the Address

Tactfully approach the error in the address to cater for different personalities and sensibilities.  If you believe some persons, for example, superiors, may be sensitive to being told they made a mistake, ask for confirmation that the email was intended for you.  You may also wish to provide some clarity on your role and how it differs from the intended recipient of the email.

Provide Assistance for the Right Address

Go the extra mile and show your consideration and concern by assisting the sender to find the proper recipient for their email.  You may cc the intended receiver in your email and include appropriate contact information in the body of your response.  If you do not know the appropriate person or how to respond to the sender, consult your manager for guidance.


While emails incorrectly addressed to you may be a distraction from your daily tasks, professional handling of such emails is important to personal and organizational reputations.  Be mindful of the origin of the email as internal and external clients require different degrees of engagement.  The fact of internet scams and phishing mandates that professionals be careful about the information shared with senders of incorrectly addressed emails.  Finally, maintain email writing etiquette and professionalism to tactfully handle incorrectly addressed emails successfully.

Chinazom Elizabeth Izuora
Chinazom Elizabeth Izuora
Chinazom has a Bachelors in Business Administration with a major in marketing management and over 4 years of practical experience working as a business consultant providing business development and operational support to organizations.

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