Software

Avoid e-mail mistakes with a single setting

Have you ever experienced the heart-stopping realization that you've made a huge blunder with an e-mail message... right as you click the Send button? Control when Outlook sends messages to avoid embarrassing mistakes.

We've all done it, and regretted it -- sent an e-mail to the wrong person, sent an angry e-mail in haste, or sent an e-mail with mistakes. I don't mind confessing my most humiliating e-mail mistakes because they're so old:

  • I sent an article to the wrong publisher. Now, that's not horrible and as a freelancer, all my editors know that I work for other publishers, but it was still unpleasant because I looked stupid.
  • I used the wrong publication name when corresponding with an editor. She responded with a curt, "I work for... ," and I never received another assignment from her.

Most e-mail clients send e-mail as soon as you hit Send in the message window, and that's why we get into trouble. Instead of sending each e-mail immediately, let them sit in the outbox. Later (usually a few hours or so), review the messages one last time and then send them. I often find small and seemingly unimportant mistakes, but mistakes nonetheless. Occasionally, I find something more important and I count my lucky stars! Letting a message sit for a while, especially if you're angry when you respond, will give you a bit of time to rethink and perhaps, even save face.

Outlook is configured to send mail when you click Send in the New Message window. To reset this option so that you control when Outlook sends mail, do the following:

  1. From the Tools menu, choose Options.
  2. Click the Mail Setup tab.
  3. Click Send/Receive in the Send/Receive options.
  4. Uncheck the Include This Group In Send/Receive (F9) option in the Setting For Group "All Accounts" section. Most of us will set this for all accounts, but you can configure Outlook to handle each account differently.
  5. Click Close and then OK.

After unchecking the Send/Receive option, you must remember to click Send/Receive on the Standard toolbar to send mail. You can also set Outlook to send e-mail when you launch or close Outlook, or schedule it to send and receive e-mail at regular intervals, so be sure to consider those options as well. You'll still have to find the mistakes, but putting a little time between creating and sending messages makes it easier to catch mistakes you might otherwise miss.

About

Susan Sales Harkins is an IT consultant, specializing in desktop solutions. Previously, she was editor in chief for The Cobb Group, the world's largest publisher of technical journals.

76 comments
sunsesh
sunsesh

Another tip is delay sending through a setting in Outlook.

frinaudo
frinaudo

The "SEND IMMEDIATELY WHEN CONNECTED" checkbox must be unchecked (in the Send/Receive options, Mail Setup tab) to work this way

sachi.bbsr
sachi.bbsr

Well, one can also set a time delay ? say, of two hours ? for sending a particular message. But I think some messages need to be sent immediately. And, BTW, my most embarrassing email error occured recently ? may be, I am not that old. I sent a personal email to a bunch of folks at the office as I was using the keyboard and didn't notice that an entire PDL had become part of the To list ... oops, really embarrassing ... but, luckily, the personal email was mostly innocuous ... though must have appeared somewhat silly to the readers ... Ah, nothing as 'hot' as the Bill-Monica affair, so ...

jon_saxon
jon_saxon

This ?tip? strikes me as unworkable for many people in so many instances. Why would ANYONE EVER put something in their outbox if they are not ready to send the message? Do you delete messages that you think you might really need to keep and then review your Deleted Items hours or days later? (I once had someone complain to me that items they had deleted were actually deleted!) Most of us on TechRepublic are not writers but technical people. We don't have the luxury of letting emails sit in the outbox for hours and reviewing them a second time. Most of our emails and replies require immediate delivery and turning off the automatic send stops EVERYTHING. Compose complicated, problematic or sensitive emails and save them as a draft. Review it as often as you need. Run a spell checker. Check the grammar. Review your sentences for loaded phrases or ambiguous sentences. Once you are satisfied with the email then hit the send button. An item in your Drafts folder will never be sent accidentally. The same is not true for an item in your Outbox.

ike brasil
ike brasil

A better tip was posted in TR a few months ago: you can use the Rules in the tools menu to postpone for the desired amount of time (I use 7 minutes) for all messages sent (if you wish, you can set some parameters to send a message at once - I've set up the rule to ignore the delay if the message is marked urgent or if it contains the string "x.x!") Ike

montanasman
montanasman

The option selection is different for 2007.

daposodimu
daposodimu

Is there a function in outlook to set email to be sent at a future date?

jjbullock1
jjbullock1

my outlook will not preform the auto send/receive. Can anyone help?

niitinmalhotra
niitinmalhotra

I am not sure if that's the smartest solution for such a potential problem - who has time for all of this re-review & manually sending/receiving emails? Personally, I find that if I have made such a mistake, I realise it within 1 minute of hitting 'Send'. To coutner this, what I have been using extremely successfully for the last several months is Deferring sending every email by 2 minutes. This can be achieved quickly by setting a new 'Rule' to 'defer delivery by a number of minutes'. Of course you can make it 30 miutes if you think your hidsight responds slower to such things. Good luck. Nitin Malhotra

dhays
dhays

I don't know of such an option in Lotus Notes, I wouldn't wait hours to send any message.

user support
user support

It is very easy and convenient to hit the reply button for email only to regret sending the wrong message (pun intended) seconds later. This is a good tip for some of your audience. I prefer to use the options in an email to set delivery for later in the day if it needs action by close of business. If it isn't needed by close of business, I can save it as a draft. Each user can only have up to 12 rules on their exchange servers. I am over the limit so, I only run the 12 that are crucial to my job. I would also like to note that I ran into a first with one of our users this year, forwarding an Outlook calendar with embedded Word, Excel and Adobe documents, the user typed the name using Outlook's autofill feature, did not notice that one of the recipients was wrong. Any of these delay features would have been great for this issue. Lesson learned, you can not recall calendars that are forwarded and you can not recall emails sent to external customers on email systems different than your own. Thanks for all the tips.

Lovs2look
Lovs2look

That's it...just avoid mistakes and you can then send email whenever you feel like.

malfesj
malfesj

I have addressed this by writing a rule that delays sending all email for 1 minute. I usuually know the moment I hit the "Send" button that I didn't want to send it. I can now sinply delete the entry from the outbox.

lewisn2
lewisn2

Another good trick I have used for years on messages I want to make sure I don't accidentally send early is to add a bogus email address somewhere in the TO:, CC:, or BCC: list. Something like "lkfdklj" works fine (random characters). That way I can keep the other email addresses in the list if I'm doing a reply, etc. Outlook won't let me send the message until I remove the bogus address.

deb.bernhardt
deb.bernhardt

There are many good ideas here (I often use save to draft to give me a chance to let my emails cool a bit). What I really want, though, is the tool that will check my email for the words "attached" or "attachment" and let me know that I have not actually attached anything... I know this problem is widespread -- hasn't anyone solved it?

jimcabral
jimcabral

Is there any way to schedule a "send" for, say, 4am? I ask because I have broadband with the "fair access policy" and it restricts the user to a limited upload/download, with the exception of between 3am and 6am.

pmurray
pmurray

With any luck, you'll catch the missing comma before "perhaps".

Chuck L
Chuck L

Isn't this akin to putting a letter out in the mailbox, but not letting the mail carrier pick it up? Or sending a fax, but not allowing the receiving machine to print it? If you want to wait awhile before sending an email, to give you time to review it later, then don't send it at all. Save it as a draft. Sending the email should be your last move, after you've verified that the email is, indeed, ready to send. Preventing Outlook from automatically sending out "Sent" emails will prevent it from sending out _all_ emails. I can see this generating even _more_ emails, as people email you again wondering why you didn't reply to their last email -- which you did, but the message hasn't gone out yet ...

PCF
PCF

It didn't work for me, the test message I sent was still delivered automatically. Any ideas on what other Outlook client settings may be on my network that prevented the delay? What should be next to "All Accounts" under Send/Receive when?

jswed
jswed

What option under Send/Receive do you use to send a message? And, what does Send All do?

don
don

Another tip, doesn't work for replies, but for new messages, write the entire message and review it before adding anyone in the "to" box. It also has the side benefit of giving you a chance to think about who to cc or bcc the message to without having to forward it later.

bernardmorey
bernardmorey

I use a different method. I have an Outlook rule set up that delays sending by one minute (or any other time) when the priority is 'normal'. If I want to send the message immediately I change the priority to 'high important'. It's saved my life a couple of times.

svfuad
svfuad

great i use outlook for years, have one embarrassing mistake so far, but still bad of course. this will sure help a lot. many thanks.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

Instead of sending it, you could save it as a draft and look at it later. That gives you the opportunity to reword it before you send it.

don.brandt
don.brandt

All good ideals, another is to compose in a word processor like Word (better for checking spelling and grammar). This way you have to copy and past the message in an email before you can send, also works for posting. One thing that was not mentioned is sending an email with no Subject a problem in Outlook 2003. Other programs I have use has an option to let you know when the Subject line is empty. Even this site lets you know you did not put a Title in before posting.

Mark A. Lewis
Mark A. Lewis

I agree, Jon. This tip is way too complicated for me as well. I would never disable "Send" in this fashion because I, too, want messages to go out as soon as I hit "Send" in Outlook. Normally I do not place a name in the "To:" field so that I can review my composed messages before sending.

KMacNeil
KMacNeil

As soon as I type the word 'attached', such as "in the attached", I stop and attach the file. Of course, there are still times when I'm going so fast, I forget even then, but it has definitely helped.

mwharrison
mwharrison

With a pop up "Dont forget the attachment" Nice!

The DOBC
The DOBC

If you attach the file BEFORE you start composing the message, or right click on a file and go to "Send to Email recipient", your attachment is there before you forget.

MCC Tech
MCC Tech

in outlook 07 you can use the "Delay Delivery" to set a time and date for an individal message. Check the Outlook help for "Delay Delivery"

ssharkins
ssharkins

Chuck, I wish I were that good, but I'm not, and that's just about as honest as I can be. I read and write all day. I'm a skimmer... I proof better after a bit of time has removed the subject from my mind. It's just how my mind works. And then... there's my temper... :)

bkreamer
bkreamer

To set up so as to require hitting both "Send," in the messege, and then the "Send/Receive" button in the main Outlook screen, uncheck Tools - Options - "Send immediately when connected". Now your messages will sit in the Outbox until you hit the "Send/Receive" button.

bens
bens

I really haven't thought of doing that for some reason. Simple and effective.

PCF
PCF

You can also still add exclusions such as "high importance", if necessary. Thanks much.

gsteck
gsteck

I once worked in an IT dept. that had gone through several bosses. There was one that would question everything I did or didn't do and used email almost exclusively for communication. I used to reply to him with scathing emails about how I knew more about the dept than he did, etc. etc. etc. I never sent these emails as written; I saved them in drafts, then went back after I calmed down and rewrote them. I'm sure it saved my job.

Lovs2look
Lovs2look

Here try this; Create two groups. Call one Sending (or similar)....call the other Receiving.....SHEESH!

MarkSpeevak
MarkSpeevak

Change outlook to save drafts in the inbox Tools, options, email options, advanced "save unsent messages in...inbox". You compose your email Push ctr-s to save and presto, your email is sitting at the top of your inbox, with the "from" field blank, reminding you that you have an unsent item.

info
info

ANYTHING that I think is mission critical or there is any chance that the other person could be an unhappy receipient I save as a draft and wait at least 4 hours before reviewing and sending. this doesn't catch everything - I'm prone to the sending an attachment, without the attachment - so now I try and attach files BEFORE I compose the message if that is the purpose of the message. Otherwise? Draft works pretty well.

Tink!
Tink!

for that brilliant idea!

dave.schutz
dave.schutz

I agree that save as a draft is more useful to me. I'd rather not stop the automatic receive email function.

mtrevino57
mtrevino57

I used the delayed send and it works quite well, in the rule I also added the option to send immediately by including the trigger word GONOW in the Subject line, for those times when I want something to be send without delay. The trigger can be anything.

simon_mackay
simon_mackay

You could look at the idea of implementing a delayed-sending rule during a certain time period on e-mail accounts operated from home or portable devices. This is usually because people who are tired or under the influence of drink could easily end up sending a message they would regret sending. GMail had a "captcha-style" option for sending out e-mail during the late hours because of this issue. This required the user to answer a mathematical problem before they could send out the e-mail, so as to identify whether the user was "under the weather" or not. Such a rule could require e-mails that were put in the Outbox between say 9pm (21:00) and 7am (07:00) not to be sent automatically or be sent at a later time, say 7am or 10am. This can allow one to review the Outbox with a clear head, avoiding the situation of sending something you would regret. With regards, Simon Mackay

bob.roman
bob.roman

The Rule worked for me in Outlook 2003. The Tools Options method did not work for me. Bob

kapkevin
kapkevin

I prefer this tip over the one I gave earlier about setting up send and receive groups. This is so much easier to set up and manage. Thanks for the tip.

Msradell
Msradell

This solution is certainly much simpler than the original and you don't have to do anything to have the mail sent nor do you have to create a separate rule for incoming mail. Everyone should use this rule even if they only set the outgoing delay for 1 minute.

stefano
stefano

Thanks mate, this is definitely the best system for me. I use the spell checker and normally check before sending, but I often sent without the attachment or to only one recipient instead to 'all'. I set it to 3min and might modify if not suitable. Cheers

ian
ian

Sending emails is not a big problem if you use a procedure. Mine is Add relevant subject line - this keeps you on track composing the email and the recipient knows what it is about. Add the attachment- you will obviously mention the attachment in the email so add it now. Compose the email and stay relevant to the subject. Review and spell/grammar check Add the recipients when you are ready to send. If you want to delay sending, save it to draft. (saving messages to the in-box was a good tip. thanks) The problem arises when you are replying to an email because the subject and recipients are already added. I like to compose replies as a new email because it removes extraneous messages from the tail of the message, because it gives me the options stated above and because it removes any bcc.(I like to know who is getting the message)

kkroon_ftb
kkroon_ftb

I do this all the time, and I'd only add a couple things -- * Disable the "CTRL + Enter to send mail" shortcut. * Remove all recipients' names before you type anything.

Deb-Ellen
Deb-Ellen

Hi gstek This is really good practise, allows you to vent your feelings & frustration safely. Just one caution though...Make sure any delegates or proxies cannot access the draft folder. Bugger!

ssharkins
ssharkins

Just when you think you know everything... :) That is a clever idea; I didn't know you could do that!

NJnewsource.com
NJnewsource.com

This also has the advantage of leaving automatic receive on, so that only the critical emails get delayed.

Otto Roth
Otto Roth

add: except if it marked as "high importance" Give you the ability to send messages that you don't want the delay slowing it down.