We’ve likely all mistakenly sent an email that wasn’t ready, contained inaccurate information, or was missing an all-important attachment. This can end up confusing the recipient and looking less professional than you’d like.
Thankfully, if you use Gmail, it’s possible to undo an email that you’ve already sent. It’s called “recalling or unsend an email” and we’ll show you how to recall Gmail emails on this page. We’ll even share top tips for needing to recall in the first place, and how you can use YAMM’s mail merge to reduce email-related stress all round.
Is there a way to unsend an email in Gmail
It’s possible to recall an email that you’ve sent in Gmail — but, you only have a short amount of time after sending the message to do so.
Google gives you a maximum of 30 seconds to recall your email. That means you’ll need to spot your mistake quickly if you want to use this strategy.
What it means to unsend emails in Gmail
Recalling an email is just another way of saying that you’ve unsent it. When you do this successfully, the recipient will never read the message or even learn that you sent it to them.
If you think this guide will teach you how to delete an email you already sent on Gmail, you should know that that is impossible. Once your message goes from one server to another, it cannot be touched by the sending server.
Google’s recall feature doesn’t delete the message from the user’s inbox. Instead, it delays sending your email for a short period so that you get the opportunity to cancel it if you need to do so.
Why would you want to recall gmail emails
A recent survey by Grammarly indicates that 93% of people make mistakes in their work emails. Often, these are simple mistakes or typos that we spot immediately after hitting the send button.
If you know how to recall an email on Gmail, then you can make sure these mistakes don’t find their way into your recipients’ inboxes. That can save you from:
- Sending inaccurate information
- Looking unprofessional with poor grammar
- Accidentally spamming blank messages
- Making any other mistakes that could harm your credibility with a lead or client
How to recall or retract an email in Gmail
Step 1: Log in to your account and navigate to settings
The first step to learning how to retract an email in Gmail is to enable the feature in the first place. This means navigating to the settings page of your Gmail account. You do that by clicking on the little cogwheel on the top right corner of your screen and then clicking “see all settings”.
This link should also get you there.
Step 2: Click on the ‘general’ tab
Next, make sure that you’re on the “general” tab on the Gmail settings page.
It should take you there automatically after you finish the first step. But if it doesn’t, just click on the “general” button near the top of your screen.
Step 3: Choose your cancellation period and save your changes
From the ‘general’ tab, look for the setting that says Undo Send. You’ll see that there’s a dropdown menu next to it that lets you pick the amount of time that you have to recall an email.
Choose whatever amount of time you prefer. Then, scroll down to the bottom of the page and hit save changes.
Once you do that, you should automatically be sent back to your main Gmail inbox page.
Step 4: You're ready to unsend Gmail emails
That’s it! You’re ready to begin recalling emails in Gmail. The actual process for doing that is pretty straightforward. But you can test it to make sure that it works by sending an email to yourself.
To do this:
- Start by writing a sample email and sending it to your own address
- When you send the message, you’ll see an option that says Undo on the bottom left-hand corner of your screen.
- Click the Undo button.
Once you press ‘undo’, the message will pop back up on your screen as if you were still writing it. You’ll follow the same process whenever you need to recall an email in the future.
The catch with the unsend message feature of Gmail
Gmail’s recall email feature is a useful way to avoid making simple mistakes. But there are a few things you’ll want to keep in mind before using it. Here are two that are worth thinking about:
Forgetting to click ‘save changes’
In Step 3, we told you that you need to click on ‘save changes’ to lock in your preferred recall time. It’s worth re-emphasizing that here.
If you don’t click on ‘save changes’, then you’ll be stuck with the default recall timing of 5 seconds. And that could create a situation where you don’t have as much time as you expect to unsend an email.
You only get a maximum of 30 seconds to recall an email that you send with Gmail. That means you can only use this feature for mistakes that you spot right away.
Don’t let the idea of having a recall feature available prevent you from doing your due diligence before sending an email. Because you won’t have enough time to go back and proofread your messages while still taking advantage of this.
How to reduce your email errors
Learning how to unsend a Gmail email is great to help you fix last-minute errors. In general, though, you’re usually better off implementing email writing practices that help you avoid errors altogether.
Here are five strategies to help you do that:
Activate “Smart Compose”
Smart Compose is a Gmail feature that’s powered by machine learning. When switched on, it’ll suggest words and phrases to help you save time while also minimizing your errors.
You can turn Smart Compose on by:
- Navigating to settings
- Clicking on the “general” tab
- Scrolling down until you see “Smart Compose”
- Choose “Writing suggestions on”
Gmail will automatically make recommendations based on your writing style. But if you want to turn that feature off, you can do so by:
- Navigating to “settings”
- Clicking on the “general” tab
- Scrolling down to “Smart compose personalization”
- Clicking on “personalization off”
Separate writing from sending
It’s also a good practice to get into the habit of separating the act of writing emails and sending them.
It can be harder to spot mistakes just after you’ve made them. Sometimes, you need to look at your emails with a fresh set of eyes to find subtle errors.
Scheduling your emails is a beneficial practice, anyway. It lets you deliver your messages into your recipients’ inboxes at the times that they’re likeliest to read them.
If you absolutely can’t separate the act of writing an email from sending one for some reason, then consider asking a colleague to review your important messages before you send them.
If you’re not using it already, then you should consider adding the Grammarly extension to your Google Chrome browser. You can access it here.
Grammarly’s extension automatically checks your grammar and spelling across every website that you use. It catches all common mistakes, alerts you when you’ve made them, and suggests solutions.
The extension can even help you optimize your phrasing and avoid clunky, unclear language. But you need to sign up for a premium plan in order to access these features.
Create a checklist
You may also benefit from creating a checklist that you review each time you’re getting ready to send an email. Getting into the habit of checking something like this can help you ensure that you’re not overlooking any important parts of your messages.
For example, your editing checklist may tell you to check for errors in the:
- Subject line
- Address field
Even if you’re doing a lot of this already, it’s a good idea to use a checklist that will reinforce the practice until it’s second nature.
Read it out loud
Sometimes, it’s easier to catch mistakes in a piece of writing when you read it out loud to yourself. There’s a rhythm that we use when speaking that doesn't always translate to your writing.
You may need to see how your email messages sound with that rhythm to figure out whether they’re ready to send to your audience or not.
Make fewer mistakes in your emails with YAMM
Mistakes are much likelier to occur when you’re typing out many messages throughout the day. But often, these messages are just slight variations of the same basic template with some personalization thrown in.
If you only had to type the message once instead, you would likely significantly reduce the number of opportunities that you have to make a mistake.
That’s why you should check out YAMM. Our mail merge add-on for Gmail lets you send personalized messages to your entire list from a single template.
This will minimize your chances of making a mistake so you only have to rely on Gmail's limited recall feature in rare situations.
So why not give it a chance? You can sign up for a free version of YAMM today to get a better feel for how we can help.