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Is it possible to delete a sent email? © Getty Images

Is it possible to delete a sent email?

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If I could turn back time, I’d take back those words that I’ve sent to you – or is there another way to make a sent email disappear?

Asked by: Claire Jacob, Chelmsford


Sadly not. Once sent, the message is out of your control. Although some email software may have a recall or undo, these functions are not doing what you think. Recall will only work if the receiver uses the same email software as you – otherwise the receiver just receives the email followed by a second rather embarrassing email saying ‘the sender wishes to recall the previous message’. Undo usually works by delaying the sending of your email for a few seconds, giving you a chance to change your mind before it is sent.

There’s a Chinese saying: once spoken, even the fastest horse cannot catch your words. The same applies to emails – so be careful what you send.


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Dr Peter Bentley is a computer scientist and author who is based at University College London. He is the author of books including 10 Short Lessons in Artificial Intelligence and Robotics and Digital Biology: How nature is transforming our technology and our lives.


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