How to recall an email in Outlook

How to recall an email in outlook? Perhaps you sent someone a mean email out of the blue. Perhaps you sent a work email and forgot to attach a document your co-workers need.

If you are using Outlook, you can take it back. Microsoft’s email client has a built-in option for situations like this: recalling emails. Sending an email recall can prevent a recipient from seeing an incomplete, angry, or otherwise inappropriate message you sent. You can recall an email with Outlook by following the instructions below. Scroll past the recall instructions to learn how to delay emails in Outlook (to prevent sending out such emails in the future).

Note: These instructions will not work with the web-based version of Outlook – they only apply to the desktop client. In addition, they only function if both you and the recipient have a Microsoft Exchange or Microsoft 365 account within the same organization. Recalls in Outlook won’t work with recipient email addresses outside the sender’s organization.

How to recall an email in Outlook 

  • Find the email you want to recall in your Sent Items folder – it should be at or near the top of the list. You have to double-click on this email to open it before moving to the next step thoroughly.
  • On the toolbar, click the Message tab to activate it. As shown below, navigate to the Move section and select the More Move Actions button.
  • Choose Recall This Message from the drop-down menu.
  • The Simplified Ribbon interface requires you to select the Message tab, click on the three-dot icon, select Actions, and then select Recall This Message.
  • A pop-up window appears on your screen. Two options are available: Delete Unread Copies of This Message or Delete Unread Copies and Replace With a Completed Message. There is also an option for Outlook to notify you if the process succeeds or fails. If you deleted the message, select your option(s) and click OK to continue. Continue if you want to replace it.
  • Outlook opens a second screen to revise the message if you choose to create a replacement. As you compose a new email, Outlook recalls your old message and displays a notification (if you selected that option). To send the revised message, click the Send button.

Note: Sending a recall message doesn’t necessarily delete your old email. The recipient may need to open the recall message first in order to make the original message disappear. Therefore, you should type “URGENT” in the title of the recall message, so that it is opened before the first offensive email. Continue for a lengthier explanation. The company also states that, in some cases, recipients may be notified when recalled messages are deleted from their inbox. So, keep in mind that even when recalling an email, the recipient may still know that an offensive or botched message was sent to them, even if they can’t view it.

Alternatives to recalling an email
Alternatives to recalling an email

Alternatives to recalling an email

Solution 1: Type out an apologetic email. In addition to making sure your emails are sent to the right people, this is probably the easiest solution. If you accidentally send an email to the wrong recipient or group of recipients and it wasn’t overly scandalous, then save some time and effort by owning up to your mistake and saying you’re sorry. An honest apology usually works well and may even build trust with the recipients. Then you can all move on.

Solution 2: Delay sending emails so they don’t go out immediately. Perhaps you should start delaying your emails if you constantly reply to emails, send private data back and forth, or are just prone to slip-ups. Follow these simple instructions to set this up for all your Outlook emails:

  • In Outlook, click File in the upper-left corner.
  • Scroll down a bit and choose Manage Rules & Alerts.
  • The Rules and Alerts window will appear. From here, choose the New Rule option.
  • Another pop-up window will appear. Here, click Apply Rule to Messages I Send. There is a Start From a Blank Rule listed underneath this. Hit the Next button to continue.
  • Please ignore anything else on the conditions list and click Next to continue. After this, a confirmation screen will appear. Select Yes to confirm.
  • Select the Defer Delivery By several Minutes option. Choose from the Several links. You’ll see a pop-up screen asking for your preferred duration. Input the number you want (120 minutes is as far as you can get) and then press the OK button. Once you’ve scrolled through all that, click Next.
  • Select the exceptions you would like. Continue by clicking Next.
  • If the Turn On This Rule checkbox is available, give your rule a name. Finally, hit the Finish button.

Why email recall doesn’t always work

You won’t always be able to recall an email the way you think it will. Because of today’s internet speeds (unless you live in a dead zone), the mistaken email is likely already in someone’s inbox, which causes several issues. There are a few things that can make recalling an email more difficult. The following are some things that can thwart your efforts.

  • Opened messages: If a recipient opens your original email, you cannot retrieve it. The recipient can still see and read the second recall message, but the original stays in their Outlook inbox. That’s why you should act quickly.
  • Redirects to other folders: If your first message activated a filter and Outlook redirected it to another folder, your recall attempt will fail. The recall option only applies to emails in the inbox. If the first message is waiting elsewhere, it will not be removed.
  • Public folders: If anyone reads your message lurking in a public folder, your recall fails. Outlook: The recall function works with Outlook. If you send an email to someone who uses Gmail, the recall won’t work.

Recalls aren’t foolproof, and your efforts may be frustrated by factors you cannot control.

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