Like many of you, I get a lot of emails. And, like many of you, a lot of those emails are asks or pitches for things. Some are good, some are not so good.

This week, I got one of the latter kind. It wasn’t no-good-terrible-bad, but it had some key flaws.

In response, I forwarded the email to a colleague outlining the problems with the pitch. I didn’t mince words. And then I pressed send.

And even though I checked the “to” address, because this was the morning that gmail was down (again), I had to refresh the page. And, when the page popped up again, it had repopulated with the email of the person who sent me the pitch in the first place, not the colleague I was trying to forward it to.

And it was already sending. And I screamed. (And then I tweeted.)

I spent the next five minutes trying to figure out how to unsend an email in gmail. By the time I figured it out, it was too late. A person I respect had just seen my candid thoughts about the problems of his pitch. Candid thoughts I had not meant to share in that manner.


It was at this moment that I realized I am an idiot for never figuring out how to unsend an email in Gmail before this day.

For your purposes, though, here’s what you should do NOW if you have not already in order to unsend an email you’ve sent inadvertently using gmail (keep reading for directions in Outlook):

  • Click on the Gear Box on the top right hand side above your inbox. It’s an icon in the shape of a circle with pointy things on it. I do not think this looks like a gear box, but what do I know about tools. (Or sports.)
  • A drop-down will appear. Click on “Settings”.
  • In “Settings”, click on “Labs”.
  • In the box that says “Search for a Lab”, type in “Undo Send”.
  • When the “Undo Send” lab pops up, click “Enable.”

Now it’s enabled and should be working. But let’s be sure. Go to your inbox and test it like this:

  • Write an email to yourself. Or to me (
  • Click “Send.”
  • After you click “Send”, type the letter “Z”.
  • It should undo it.

Okay, now test it again using another way to unsend the message:

  • Write an email to yourself.
  • Click “Send.”
  • After you click “Send”, see the “Undo” option that pops up above the inbox. Click that.
  • It should undo it.

Now, if you want to get even fancier, you can change it to “unsend” for up to 30 seconds. (Huge thanks to Chetan in the comments for this tip!)

Here’s how to do this:

  • Click on the gear icon at the top right.
  • Under “general settings”, you should see “undo send” between “send & archive” and “stars”.
  • You should then see a checked “enable undo send” and under that is a drop down for setting cancellation period time length.
  • Adjust that to 30 seconds (the max allowed) and you are good to go.

Don’t use Gmail?

Commenter Dyanick kindly provided these instructions for Microsoft Outlook:

  • Go to your Sent items
  • Double click on the email in question to open a new window
  • On the Message tab, click on ‘Other Actions’ and in the drop down menu that appears, click on ‘Recall This Message’.
  • In the window that appears, choose the options proposed and click ‘Ok’. It’s done and works only if the recipient has not read the message yet.

If you use email (no luddites in view), you need to do this now. Please, please, please. For the love of all things good.

Have you ever sent an email you didn’t mean to? Or sent an email to the wrong person? Did you cry for days (like I am doing)? Or how did you pick yourself up?

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