How to Recall an Email in Outlook to Un-Send It in 4 Steps

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 16 May 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Recalling an email in Outlook means undoing the action of sending it. After you recall an email, the recipients can't view the content of the email. Knowing how to recall an email in Outlook can be useful when you accidentally send an email to the wrong recipient or realise you want to add additional information or an attachment to the email. In this article, we go over the steps to recall an email in Outlook and some tips to avoid it.

How to recall an email in Outlook

If you're wondering how to recall an email in Outlook, you can follow these four steps:

1. Find the email

Start the recall process by locating the email you want to recall. If you just sent the email, it may be in your "Outbox" folder. In this case, it means your email hasn't reached your recipient yet, so you can either drag the message to your "Drafts" folder or delete it. Outlook usually displays your folders on the left side of the window.

If the email is already on its way to the recipient, it's likely in your "Sent" folder. Outlook usually arranges the emails according to their chronological order, so the email you just sent is typically at the top of the list. You can double click an email to expand it.

2. Recall the email

Select the "Message" tab on the toolbar to activate it. Then scroll to the "Move" section and click the button for "More Move Actions" with a letter and envelope icon. You can then select the "Recall This Message" option from the drop-down list. If you use the simplified version of the toolbar, you can select the "Messages" tab, scroll to the icon with three dots, click the "Actions" button and then choose "Recall This Message." The ability to recall an email is only available on versions of Microsoft Outlook from 2003 onwards.

3. Delete the email

You can now delete the email that you sent. A pop-up window may appear on your screen and prompt you to choose "Delete Unread Copies of This Message" or "Delete Unread Copies and Replace With a New Message". Select the option relevant to your situation. Although the recipients can't receive your email now, Outlook may still notify the recipient that you recalled an email from their inbox.

There's also an option for Outlook to let you know if the recall process is successful. If you want to follow an email recall's progress, select the check box for "Tell Me if Recall Succeeds or Fails for Each Recipient." If you checked this box, you can receive an email notification to indicate whether the recall worked or not for each intended recipient.

4. Send a new email

You can send a new email in place of the one you just recalled. Outlook may open a second window so you can revise and replace the original email. You can fix any errors in the initial email or include an attachment you might have forgotten. Click the "Send" button when you're done writing the new message.

Related: Email Etiquette: The Professional Business Email Format

Reasons a recall may fail

The result of recalling an email depends on the settings of the recipients' inboxes and when they open the email. Here are several scenarios that recalling an email may fail:

The recipients already opened the original message

The most common reason for a recall failing is the recipients already received and opened the email before you tried to recall it. The recipients who opened the original message can see both the original message and a notification that says you tried to recall the email. If you used a new email to replace the old email in the recall process, these recipients can read the new email, too.

Related: Guide to Replying to an Email Professionally (With Examples)

The recall took too long to complete

If you're sending a mass email to many recipients, the recall may take a while to complete. Outlook automatically sends out a recall notification to your recipients, sometimes before the recall process is complete. Therefore, your recipients may check their emails after receiving the notification and then see and open the original message.

The recalled email is in another folder

Some people use folders to organise their emails. They either move the emails on their own or set up a rule in Outlook to move certain emails to a particular folder. If your recipients move the email out of the default inbox folder, it may affect the recall function. In these cases, the recipients can usually read the original email, the new email and the recall status notification.

You and your recipient aren't using the same version of Microsoft Office

If you're using Microsoft Office 365 but your recipients aren't, or vice versa, then your recall may fail. This situation usually doesn't happen with company internal communication, since different teams of the same company often share the same system. If you're trying to recall an email sent outside of your company, you may want to make sure your recipients use the same version of Microsoft Office for it to work.

Tips to avoid recalling emails in Outlook

Although it's a practical way to un-send wrong emails, recalling emails too often may give a poor impression to others. Here are some ways to avoid recalling emails:

Add recipients last

People often accidentally send unfinished emails. You can avoid this by typing the names of your recipients only after you finish writing an entire email. Since you can't send an email without a recipient, an error message appears when you try to send an unfinished email. This can prevent sending out incomplete emails by accidentally pressing send.

Related: Email Etiquette: How to End an Email (With Examples)

Proofread your content

After writing your email, you can double-check for content or grammatical errors. If you're writing a long email, it may be helpful to draft a message in another word processor before you copy it into Outlook. There's also a spell check function in Outlook, so ensure you have it turned on when writing important emails.

Add attachments first

Another common reason to recall an email is forgetting to add an attachment. When you're writing an email with an important document, like sending your resume, it's helpful to insert the attachment before you write your email. If you try to send an email with an attachment but no content, a notification appears asking you to confirm to send an email without a message. This can help prevent you from sending an email without an attachment.

Related: Guide: How to Send a CV via Email in 12 Simple Steps

Create contact groups or distribution lists

Another reason for recalling an email is including the wrong recipients. There are often people with similar names and Outlook may autofill the wrong email address if you aren't paying attention. If you send emails to the same group of people often, you can consider creating a contact group or distribution list in Outlook. This function allows you to create a fixed mailing list.

When you want to send an email to this list, you can simply type out the name of the list instead of typing out the name of every recipient one by one. This can avoid any mistakes when typing recipient names and improve productivity.

How to use the delay email function

If you find yourself recalling emails often, you can consider setting up the delay function in Outlook. When you activate this function, Outlook automatically delays the email sending process, meaning your recipients receive your emails after a predetermined period rather than as soon as possible after it's sent. This can give you more time to recall your emails if necessary. Here are the steps on how to set up this function:

  1. Select "File" in the left corner of Outlook.

  2. Scroll to "Manage Rules & Alerts".

  3. Select the "New Rule" option in the "Rules & Alerts" window that appears on your screen.

  4. Click "Apply Rules on Messages I Send" and hit the "Next" button to continue.

  5. Select "Next" again, then choose "Yes" on the confirmation screen.

  6. Choose "Defer Delivery By a Number of Minutes" and select the "A Number of" link to enter your preferred delay.

  7. After entering your preferred delay, click "OK" and then "Next."

  8. Enter any exceptions to the delay that you may want, then hit the "Next" button.

  9. Give the delay a name and check "Turn On This Rule" and then hit the "Finish" button.

Please note that none of the companies, institutions or organisations mentioned in this article are affiliated with Indeed.

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