Email may have dramatically increased the speed at which we communicate but it’s also helped us to embarrass ourselves a lot faster as well, whether with a harmless typo or an incriminating message sent to exactly the wrong person. Although retrieving mail sent to the wrong recipient was still hard in the days of snail mail, and required hunting down postmen and intercepting in trays, email has made it impossible to save misdirected mail – until now.
In June, Google introduced a 30 second grace period for Gmail, allowing its users a window of opportunity to get their email back if they notice a mistake, forgotten attachment, or wrong recipient.
The option to turn on Undo Send can be found in the settings menu under the general tab. Disabled by default, the Undo Send feature can be set for 5, 10, 20 or 30 seconds, and though for many of us the same amount of minutes or hours would be preferable, we should still be grateful. Even if 30 seconds might not seem like a long time, it’s at least enough for a previously invisible typo to leap out at you, or quickly double-check who you’re sending it to.
The most disastrous email errors are usually of the ‘reply all’ variety, or at least replying to the wrong person. One recent example of such a blunder comes from the Australian Immigration Department who accidentally sent the passport information of Barack Obama and David Cameron, along with 28 other world leaders, to an employee of an international sports committee. In this case it took 10 minutes for the mistake to sink in.
While the Undo Send feature isn’t going to put an end to email misery for good, it’s at least going save many people a lot of heartache. And if you do still manage to forward that inappropriate message to your boss rather than your co-worker you can at least take comfort in the fact that even potential presidents send embarrassing emails. This week, 3,000 messages from Hilary Clinton’s inbox were released by the US State Department, many of which would probably have benefited from the new Gmail feature…
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