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How to recall an email in outlook

In the fast-paced world of digital communication, emails are often sent in a hurry, leading to moments where we wish we could take a message back. This is where the ability to recall an email becomes crucial. Microsoft Outlook's email recall feature is a lifeline in these situations, offering a chance to retract a message before it potentially leads to confusion, embarrassment, or even professional consequences.

How to recall an email in outlook

The ability to recall an email is particularly important in a professional setting, where the stakes are high, and the content of communication must be accurate and appropriate. There are several scenarios where this tool can be invaluable:

  1. Prematurely Sent Emails: Sometimes, in the rush to stay on top of our workload, we might hit the send button before an email is fully composed or reviewed. The recall function allows us to retract these incomplete or draft emails.

  2. Incorrect Recipient: It's easy to mistakenly send an email to the wrong person, especially when dealing with long recipient lists or similar contact names. Recalling the email can prevent sensitive information from reaching unintended recipients.

  3. Errors in Email Content: This includes typos, incorrect information, or outdated details that could mislead or confuse the recipient. The recall feature provides an opportunity to correct these errors before they impact the message's effectiveness.

  4. Attachment Issues: Forgetting to include an attachment or attaching the wrong file is a common email error. With the recall function, you can rectify this mistake without needing to send a follow-up email.

Understanding how to effectively use the email recall feature in Outlook not only helps in managing these common email mishaps but also contributes to maintaining professionalism and accuracy in digital communication.

Understanding Email Recall in Outlook

Email recall is a feature in Microsoft Outlook that allows users to retract an email that has already been sent, under specific conditions. This feature is particularly useful in a business environment where emails are a primary mode of communication and the need for accuracy and appropriateness is paramount. The recall function can be a real lifesaver, offering a chance to correct mistakes or retrieve unintended messages before they create any impact.

What is Email Recall?

Email recall is designed to "unsend" an email that you've already dispatched. When you recall an email, Outlook attempts to remove the email from the inbox of the recipients who haven’t opened it yet. If successful, the recipients will no longer see the original email, and depending on your settings, they may either see nothing or receive a replacement email that you send.

Conditions for Successful Email Recall

The ability to recall an email in Outlook is subject to several conditions:

  1. Same Email Server: Both you and the recipient must be using Microsoft Outlook as your email client, and your accounts should be on the same Exchange server. This feature is generally not available for personal email accounts (like, Gmail, or Yahoo Mail) or across different email servers.

  2. Unread Emails: The recall is most likely to be successful if the recipient has not yet opened the email. Once the email is opened, the chances of a successful recall diminish greatly.

  3. Recipient's Outlook Settings: The outcome of a recall attempt also depends on the recipient's Outlook settings. For instance, if the recipient has set up rules to move emails to other folders, the recall might fail.

  4. Network Delays and Synchronization: The recall process depends on server and network speeds. Delays in synchronization between your email client and the server can affect the recall success.

  5. Limitations with Mobile and Web Applications: The recall feature does not usually work as intended when the recipient is using a mobile app or web-based version of Outlook.

It's important to note that the email recall feature is not a guaranteed solution and should not be relied upon as a fail-safe method for retrieving sent emails. Its effectiveness varies based on the specific setup and settings of both the sender and the recipient. Therefore, it's always best to carefully review emails before sending them, especially in a professional context.

Step-by-Step Guide to Recalling an Email in Microsoft Outlook

Occasionally, you might send an email in Outlook only to realize it needs to be corrected or wasn't meant to be sent at all. The email recall feature in Outlook is designed for such moments. Follow these steps to navigate this useful feature:

Step 1: Accessing Sent Messages

  • Starting Outlook: First, open the Microsoft Outlook application on your device.

  • Finding 'Sent Items': Look for the 'Sent Items' folder, typically located in the folder pane on the left side of the Outlook interface. This folder holds all the emails you've sent.

Step 2: Identifying the Email for Recall

  • Scanning Sent Emails: Browse your sent items to find the email you wish to retract. You can use the search bar for quicker access if you remember keywords from the email.

  • Importance of Timeliness: Remember, the sooner you attempt to recall the email, the more likely it is that the process will be successful.

Step 3: Opening the Sent Email

  • Email Selection: Locate and then double-click on the relevant email. This action will open the email in a new window, which is necessary for the next steps.

Step 4: Engaging the Recall Feature

  • For Recent Outlook Versions (2016, 2019, Microsoft 365):

  • Accessing 'Message' Tab: At the top of the opened email window, find and click on the 'Message' tab.

  • Locating 'Actions': Inside the 'Message' tab, look for a section or button named 'Actions', part of the 'Move' group.

  • Initiating Recall: In the 'Actions' dropdown, select 'Recall This Message'.

Step 5: Choosing Recall Method

  • Options in the Recall Dialog Box:

  • Erase Unread Emails: This option attempts to delete the email from the recipient's inbox, but only if it hasn't been opened.

  • Substitute with a New Email: If you prefer to send a corrected version of the message, choose this option. It will delete the original email and allow you to compose a new one immediately.

After completing these steps, Outlook will process your recall request. You'll receive a notification about the recall's success or failure for each recipient. The success of recalling an email depends on multiple factors, such as whether the recipient has already opened the email and their specific settings in Outlook.

Best Practices and Alternatives for Email Management in Outlook

While the recall feature in Microsoft Outlook can be a useful tool, it's not always reliable, and its success depends on several factors. Therefore, it's important to adopt best practices to reduce the need for recalling emails. Additionally, it's helpful to know alternative solutions when recall isn't possible.

Best Practices to Avoid Email Errors

  1. Thorough Proofreading: Always take an extra moment to review your email for typos, grammatical errors, and clarity. This helps in conveying a professional and accurate message.

  2. Check Recipient Details: Before hitting send, double-check the recipient's email address. Pay special attention when your email client auto-fills the recipient's address.

  3. Review Attachments: Make sure you have attached all the required documents and that they are the correct versions.

  4. Use 'Delay Send' Feature: Some email clients, including Outlook, allow you to delay the sending of an email by several minutes. This can provide a window to catch mistakes after hitting 'send'.

  5. Draft and Revisit for Important Emails: For crucial communications, consider drafting the email and then revisiting it after a short break with a fresh perspective.

  6. Test Emails for New Campaigns: If you’re sending out a mass email or a new marketing campaign, send a test email to yourself or a colleague to ensure everything appears as intended.

Alternatives When Recall Is Not Possible

  1. Send a Follow-Up Email: If the recall fails or is not an option, sending a follow-up email to correct the mistake is the next best step. Be clear and concise in addressing the error.

  2. Apologize for the Mistake: If the error is significant, a straightforward apology can go a long way in maintaining professionalism and trust.

  3. Use 'Reply All' With Caution: If the original email was sent to multiple recipients, consider whether you should use 'Reply All' for your correction. Sometimes, addressing the error individually can be more appropriate.

  4. Contact Recipients Directly: In cases where an immediate response is necessary, or the error is substantial, consider calling the recipient(s) to explain and rectify the situation more directly.

  5. Implement Email Approval Processes: For organizations, having an approval process for important external communications can prevent many errors.

  6. Educate Team Members: Regularly update and educate your team on email best practices, especially in a professional setting where email communication is frequent.

By incorporating these best practices and alternatives into your email routine, you can significantly reduce the need for recalling emails and handle situations more effectively when errors do occur.

Recap of Main Points

  1. Recalling Emails in Outlook: We discussed how to recall an email in Microsoft Outlook, a feature available under specific conditions such as both parties using Microsoft Exchange or Microsoft 365 within the same organization, and the recipient not having read the email yet.

  2. Steps to Recall an Email: This includes accessing the 'Sent Items' folder, opening the email to be recalled, initiating the recall process through the 'File' and 'Info' tabs, and selecting either to delete unread copies of the email or replace it with a new message.

  3. Best Practices: To minimize the need for recalling emails, we emphasized the importance of proofreading, double-checking recipient details, reviewing attachments, and possibly using the 'Delay Send' feature.

  4. Alternatives to Recall: When recalling an email is not possible, sending a follow-up email, apologizing for any mistake, and direct communication were suggested as alternative approaches.

Final Thoughts on Email Communication

The ability to recall an email in Outlook is a valuable tool, but it's not infallible. It serves as a reminder of the importance of careful and mindful email communication. In a digital age where emails often serve as the first and lasting impression in professional environments, the accuracy and appropriateness of our emails cannot be overstated. Implementing best practices and having a plan for when things go wrong are key to effective email communication. By doing so, we not only reduce the likelihood of errors but also foster a more professional and efficient working environment. Remember, in the realm of email communication, a moment of caution before hitting 'send' can prevent a multitude of challenges.


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