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How to delete an email you sent

Learn how to delete an email you sent in Outlook, Gmail and Apple Mail. Discover easy steps and manage your inbox effectively.

First published

29.02.2024

Last edited

29.02.2024

Read time

7 minutes


    By Ilija

    An economist by degree, a marketing manager at heart. Seeing my website on the first page of Google is what excites me most. I write mostly about email productivity, email management and AI.

    Sometimes you might send an email and then realize you made a mistake. Maybe you sent it to the wrong person, forgot to add something important, or found a mistake. It happens to everyone at some point. This guide will show you how to fix those mistakes by deleting or recalling back the email you just sent.

    Email deletion vs email recalling

    When you delete an email, it's only removed from your "Sent" folder, leaving the recipient's copy untouched. Essentially, this action tidies up your own inbox without affecting the message's status elsewhere.

    Recalling an email, however, is a more complex process aiming to completely retract a sent message from the recipient's inbox. This function's effectiveness varies, depending on several factors including the email service's capabilities and whether the recipient has already opened the email. Understanding these distinctions is crucial for effective email management.

    Can you delete a sent email?

    When you hit "send" on an email, it travels from your device through your email provider's server to the recipient's email server, and finally to their inbox. This journey involves several steps, ensuring the email's delivery even if there's a hiccup along the way. Because of this multi-step process, deleting an email from your "Sent" folder only affects your copy. The email has already reached the recipient's server and their inbox, making deletion from your end irrelevant to its presence in their account.

    Learn how to recall on different email clients:

    How to recall an email in Gmail

    How to recall an email in Outlook

    How to recall an email in Apple Mail

    How to delete an email on Gmail

    How to delete an email on Gmail

    Source: Google

    • Navigate to "Sent" Folder: Locate the email you wish to delete.
    • Select and Delete: Click the checkbox beside the email, then press the "Delete" (trash bin icon).
    • Permanent Deletion: For immediate removal, go to "Trash", select the email, and click "Delete forever".

    Deleting emails in Gmail helps keep your inbox organized and free of clutter, ensuring that only necessary communications are kept for reference or action.

    Alternatively, you can try to recall Gmail email messages by using the "Undo Send" feature. Immediately after sending an email, Gmail provides a brief window where you can choose to undo the send. This feature must be enabled in your Gmail settings, allowing you to set a cancellation period of 5, 10, 20, or 30 seconds. If you act quickly and click "Undo" within this timeframe, the email will not be sent, effectively recalling it before it reaches the recipient's inbox. Now let's continue with some other Gmail productivity tip: mass deleting emails.

    How to mass delete emails on Gmail?

    Mass deleting emails in Gmail can help you manage your Gmail inbox more efficiently by clearing out unwanted or unnecessary messages. Here's a step-by-step guide to doing this:

    On a Computer

    • Open Gmail: Go to gmail.com and login if needed.
    • Select Emails:
      • To delete all emails from a specific category (like Promotions, Social, or Updates), click on that tab.
      • For a broader selection, use the search bar. For example, type older_than:1y to find emails older than a year.
    • Select Messages: Click the checkbox at the top left corner above your emails to select all messages currently displayed on the page.
      • Note: Gmail displays only 50 - 100 emails per page by default. If you have more emails than that, you'll see a message at the top of the email list saying "Select all conversations that match this search" if you used the search function, or "Select all XXX conversations in Primary" for category selections. Clicking this link selects all emails, not just those on the current page.
    • Delete: Click the trash can icon to delete the selected emails.
    • Confirm (if prompted): Depending on your settings or the action, you might need to confirm the deletion.

    On a Mobile Device

    • Open the Gmail App: Launch the Gmail app on your smartphone or tablet.
    • Select Emails: Tap and hold on an email to enter selection mode. Then, tap other emails you wish to delete, or tap the tiny circle letter/icon at the left of each email.
    • Delete: Tap the trash can icon to delete the selected emails.

    Emptying the Trash

    Deleted emails go to the Trash and will be automatically deleted after 30 days. To permanently delete them before this:

    • On a Computer: Go to the Trash folder, and click "Empty Trash now" at the top.
    • On a Mobile Device: Go to the Menu ☰, tap "Trash," then tap "Empty Trash now."

    How to delete an email on Outlook

    How to delete an email on Outlook

    Source: Microsoft

    To delete an email in Outlook:

    • Navigate to your "Sent Items" folder and locate the email you wish to remove.
    • Click on it to select, then press the "Delete" button. This moves the email to the "Deleted Items" folder. If you want to permanently delete it, you can go to the "Deleted Items" folder,
    • Select the email, and press "Delete" again, or right-click and choose "Delete" to remove it permanently from your account.

    Alternatively, in Outlook, you can attempt to recall an email message if both you and the recipient are using Microsoft Exchange or certain Microsoft 365 accounts and the recipient hasn't read the email yet.

    This is done by opening the sent email, selecting "File" > "Info" > "Resend or Recall" > "Recall This Message," and then choosing either to delete unread copies of the email or replace them with a new message. Success depends on specific conditions, such as both parties using compatible email systems and the message not being read.

    If you are using Outlook.com, you can undo send emails by enabling the 'Undo Send' feature, which gives you a brief window to retract an email after hitting the send button. This feature can be a lifesaver for correcting mistakes or second thoughts about an email's content. Once enabled, you can choose a cancellation period ranging from a few seconds up to 30 seconds, allowing you time to reconsider your sent email.

    To use this feature, simply click the "Undo" option that appears after sending an email. This action effectively stops the email from reaching the recipient's inbox, giving you the opportunity to edit or discard it altogether.

    How to delete an email on Apple Mail

    Managing your emails in Mail on your Mac can help keep your inbox tidy and free up space. Here's a straightforward guide on how to delete emails, view deleted messages, and permanently remove them.

    Deleting Emails

    • To delete a single email:
    • Open the Mail app and select the message you want to delete.
    • Click the Delete button in the toolbar, or hover over the message's header and click the Delete button that appears.
    • Tip: Hold the Option key while deleting to prevent the next message from being auto-selected and marked as read.
    • Alternatively, swipe left with two fingers on the trackpad or click Delete on a Mail notification to remove a message, if you've set the “Move discarded messages” option to Trash.

    To delete multiple emails:

    • In Mail, select the messages or conversations you wish to delete.
    • Click the Delete button in the toolbar or press the Delete key.
    • Deleting a mailbox removes all messages it contains.
    • Use the search function to find and delete messages by date or sender.

    Viewing Deleted Emails

    • The ability to view and retrieve deleted messages depends on your Mail settings.
    • Go to Mail > Settings, click Accounts, then select an account and click Mailbox Behaviors.
    • If a Trash Mailbox is specified, you can see deleted messages there until they're permanently removed. Drag a message from Trash to another mailbox to retrieve it.
    • If set to None, deleted messages are immediately removed and not available in Trash.

    Permanently Deleting Emails

    • To permanently erase deleted items:
    • Choose Mailbox > Erase Deleted Items, then select an account.
    • Or, Control-click a Trash mailbox in the sidebar and choose Erase Deleted Items.
    • Adjust the “Erase deleted messages” setting in Mail to automatically clear deleted messages after a certain period.
    • If you accidentally delete something, you can recover it from the Trash unless it's been permanently erased.
    • Use Time Machine backups to restore deleted content if necessary.

    Delete and recover emails in Mail on iPhone

    Delete emails in Mail on iPhone

    Source: Apple

    Deleting Emails:

    • Individual Emails: Tap the Delete button while viewing an email to remove it.
    • From Email List: Swipe left on an email and select Trash, or swipe all the way left to delete it in one gesture.
    • Multiple Emails: Tap Edit at the top of your email list, select the emails, then tap Trash.
    • Quick Select: Swipe down through checkboxes to select multiple emails quickly.
    • Disable Confirmation: To stop the app from asking before deleting, go to Settings > Mail and turn off Ask Before Deleting.

    Recovering Deleted Emails:

    • Find Deleted Emails: From the Mailboxes screen, tap Trash to see your recently deleted emails.
    • Recover an Email: Tap the email in Trash you want to recover, tap the Reply button, then Move the Message to another mailbox.

    Archiving Emails:

    • Setup Archive: Go to Settings > Mail > Accounts. Choose your account and tap Advanced to select Archive Mailbox.
    • Archiving Action: With the Archive set, you can archive by swiping or using the Archive button. To delete instead, hold the Archive button and choose Trash Message.

    Managing Deleted Emails:

    • Duration Before Permanent Deletion: Settings > Mail > Accounts lets you choose how long deleted emails stay in Trash before being removed.
    • Service-Specific Settings: Note that some services, like iCloud, have their own rules for how long emails stay in Trash.

    These steps offer a detailed approach to managing your emails in the Mail app, ensuring you can keep your inbox organized and recover important messages you might have accidentally deleted.

    Summary

    This guide explores how to correct email mistakes by either deleting or recalling sent emails, highlighting the differences between the two actions. Deleting an email removes it from your "Sent" folder without affecting the recipient's inbox, while recalling aims to remove the email from the recipient's inbox entirely, though its success depends on various factors like the email service used and whether the email has been opened.

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