Don’t Add Recipients Until Your Email Is Complete

Don’t Add Recipients Until Your Email Is Complete

Our post last week on avoiding email disasters served as a reminder for one of the best techniques for minimising the risk of an email misfire: don’t add recipients to an email until you’ve finished composing it and read it over. That way, there’s no chance of accidentally sending it before you finish it.

That concept was raised by a couple of commenters and while it probably isn’t a new idea to many Lifehacker readers, we figure it’s worth singling out as a sensible habit for anyone who hasn’t already tried it. It’s not a perfect solution: if you’re replying to an individual email, you’re probably not going to delete recipients simply to add them back in.

However, developing the habit of addressing new email as the last step in composing, not the first, means you’re more likely to proof and check mails before they hit the network. Using delayed sending is also a possibility, but that has its own limits, and works differently across different devices — not adding a recipient is something you can do in any client.


  • I do this too, but I’ve always wished I could configure my email-client layout to be backwards. That is:
    – Body field
    – Subject field
    – CC field
    – To field

  • To echo another reader’s comment from the previous article:

    Never put anything in an email that could land you in trouble if seen by a particular person or company. Email is a permanent medium. Get in the habit of realising that there will be a permanent record of anything you email. Regardless of who you send the email to, it only takes one person to forward it to an unintended recipient.

    Also, there’s no guarantee that people take notice of email signatures, but it doesn’t hurt to include something in your email signature that prevents dissemination. It may not prevent it in a practical sense, but could assist from a legal standpoint. I include the following:

    This message may contain privileged, confidential and non-disclosure information intended only for the use of the addressee named above. If you are not the intended recipient of this message, you must not disseminate, copy or take any action in reliance on it. If you have received this message in error, please notify [company] immediately.

  • Great tip. Sometimes if hitting reply all I will cut and paste the “to” field in to the top of the body field until i’m ready to send. cc as well. helpful if there are many recipients

  • I’ve learnt the hard way to do this as well. As soon as I hit “reply”, the first thing I do is wipe the TO field (if it’s an address I don’t have in my contacts, it gets cut’n’pasted into a blank text file temporarily).

    I sent a few half-finished (or is that half-started?!) emails to my manager before I started doing this.

  • I use MS Exchange Outlook at work and have setup rules & alert to delay all outgoing messages by a minute. That way even if I accidental hit the “Send” before it is proof checked, I always know its still in my outbox.

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