How many of us have never sent a sharp e-mail message or one that off-handedly criticizes or derides a third person? Naturally, we never intend for anyone but the recipient to read it. We all get frustrated, even with those that we generally admire and respect.
The Boston Globe today describes an unfortunate case of a young lawyer who ungraciously rejected a job offer, and after a heated exchange, found her messages published widely in the world.
A more common experience, I think, is for inappropriate comments to become embedded in a thread that mistakenly gets forwarded to a wider community or an inappropriate reply to a listserv being sent to the entire list rather than a single intended recipient.
The Globe suggests thinking twice before committing something acid to an email. Good advice. I would add an exhortation to carefully review forwarded email threads for the sake of our own and our colleague's comfort. Judicious SNIPPING may save many a career!