recall this

Regretting a sent e-mail message can result in embarrassment similar to speaking too soon. Harmful or untruthful words may come out that you don’t actually mean and there isn’t anything you can do about it in words. Fortunately, digital word is a little different.

Microsoft Outlook has a built-in feature for removing, or recalling sent messages. This sounds great, right? Why not just use Outlook for all your e-mails and never have to worry about falsely sending another message? With Outlook’s recall feature, and under an Exchange environment, messages can be requested for deletion after being sent.

How emails are sent

Let’s say we’re using a Verizon email account. A message is sent to an address and moments later you decide you shouldn’t have sent it and want to recall it. Sadly, this feature isn’t available for email accounts like this. At this point, the only available option is to actually ask the user to not read the e-mail. Though this may work, it’s not as successful or discrete as Outlook’s recall.

When messages send out from Gmail’s servers, for example, and land on a Yahoo! account, the message is now no longer accessible from Gmail. It’s behind the firewalls and servers of Yahoo! – untouchable by any other service. Outlook’s recall feature, by similar design, can only work in a local Exchange environment. The email never actually leaves the Exchange server but rather changes from one account to another. Take note that if an email is sent outbound from Outlook to a Gmail account, this feature will not work because now we’re in the same boat as Yahoo!, with different servers being involved.

Using Outlook’s recall feature

So an email has been sent and now it needs to be removed from the other account’s Inbox. How do we do this? Begin by going back to the sent item, opening it in it’s full, maximized window. Toward the top, choose the “Actions” dropdown and select “Recall This Message…”


A prompt will display with additional options. Choose “Delete unread copies of this message” to simply remove the message from the remote account. Select the second bubble option of “Delete unread copies and replace with a  new message” to do just that: Replace the message with a new one. This is where you’d make the corrections you missed the first time around.


If the final checkmark is selected, which it is by default, of “Tell me if recall succeeds or fails for each recipient”, a message will be delivered to your Inbox specifying the success or failure of the recall. After deleting, a new little message will display above the message details indicating an attempt was made to recall the message.


A successful recall results in a message deliver similar to the following two images:




Outlook recall is a great feature but be sure not to overuse it. If the e-mail has already been read, the account holder will be notified you are asking for a recall of the message. This can get quite annoying and is unprofessional. The best practice here is to reread the messages before they’re sent. If a mistake is made once or twice, quickly recall the email using the steps above and all is well.