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A Few Silly Email Errors

I share these recent email errors to make you smile. Can you figure out what the writer intended? Explanations follow the four items.

  1. A business friend ended a message to me this way: "I hope you and the fan are doing well."
  2. A writing class participant forgot to include an attachment. When she remembered, she sent it to me with this simple message: "Whoops!"
  3. When I told a client it would be two days before I could give her written feedback on her writing, she emailed back, "That's okay. No hurray."
  4. A man in a writing class searched the dairy counter for Canilla yoghurt, which his wife had emailed him to purchase on the way home. Finally he asked the store clerk whether it was a new brand.


1. I was on a break from a business writing class when I read this message on my phone. I could not figure out why my friend was talking about a fan. Class participants told me what he meant: "fam," my family.

2. Whoops are loud cries of exultation or cries from a warrior. The writer meant Oops.

3. No doubt you recognized that the client meant "No hurry." I preferred her "No hurray" version.

4. Are you familiar with canilla yoghurt? How about vanilla?

I welcome any examples you would like to share.

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Syntax Training

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By Lynn Gaertner-Johnston

Lynn Gaertner-Johnston has helped thousands of employees and managers improve their business writing skills and confidence through her company, Syntax Training. In her corporate training career of more than 20 years, she has worked with executives, engineers, scientists, sales staff, and many other professionals, helping them get their messages across with clarity and tact.

A gifted teacher, Lynn has led writing classes at more than 100 companies and organizations such as MasterCard, Microsoft, Boeing, Nintendo, REI, AARP, Ledcor, and Kaiser Permanente. Near her home in Seattle, Washington, she has taught managerial communications in the MBA programs of the University of Washington and UW Bothell. She has created a communications course, Business Writing That Builds Relationships, and provides the curriculum at no cost to college instructors.

A recognized expert in business writing etiquette, Lynn has been quoted in "The Wall Street Journal," "The Atlantic," "Vanity Fair," and other media.

Lynn sharpened her business writing skills at the University of Notre Dame, where she earned a master's degree in communication, and at Bradley University, with a bachelor's degree in English.

8 comments on “A Few Silly Email Errors”

  • Hi, Sarah. I am happy to introduce you to that alternate spelling.


  • Hi Lynn
    Should it be alternate spelling or alternative spelling?
    Is “alternate” a British word or an Americanism?
    There is a lot of confusion in India over the use of this word.
    Could you please throw some light on the use of these two words (“alternate” and “alternative”) in business writing?
    Best regards
    Ram A

  • Hello, Wordsmithindia. You are correct! In fact, I woke up in the middle of the night, realizing I had chosen the wrong word. It was fun to see your comment when I logged in this morning.

    “Alternative” is the correct choice, although the two words (“alternative” and “alternate”) are very close in meaning. I will write a post about that confusing word pair soon.

    Thank you for taking the time to comment.


  • Hi Lynn,
    I have to be careful with ‘definitely’ as it has come out as ‘defiantly’ in the past. Others I’ve seen include ‘friends/fiends’, ‘which/ witch’, ‘course/coarse’.

  • Ha! Didn’t know that “whoop” is actually a word with a meaning and all. I’ve seen (and used!) “whoops!” many times as a sillier version of “oops!”.

    Then I googled for “whoopsie”, which I’ve always seen as an even sillier version of “whoops”, but the first search results were quite… interesting.



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