Clean up mail before forwarding

Sometimes I receive emails which are "funny forwards" and I'd like to pass them on to others as well.

Sadly, most of the time the constant forwarding has really messed up the formatting and in my view it negatively affects the "fun factor" of it as well.

How can I efficiently clean up the email upon forwarding?

A lot depends upon the actual formatting of the message but here are some general tips;

Remove all the previous email addresses from the email

These kind of “chain emails” usually contain a lot of addresses of people you don’t know. When somehow Junk E-mail senders receive such a mail as well, it is a great collection of addresses to add to their spam database. Clean up the email and tell other forwarders to do the same to also protect your privacy.

Switch the message to Plain Text

Often, these emails are all about the text and not the formatting of it. When you change the message to Plain Text, all the previous formatting is lost and only the text remains. Of course you can then switch it back to HTML format again to add some coloring and apply a good looking font to it again. After all; it should remain a “funny forward”.

Clear partial formatting

When the formatting is important, but parts of it is messed up, or when the body contains images, then you can select a portion of text and press the Clear Formatting button. Instead of converting the entire message to Plain Text, only that portion will be reset to the default of the email.

  • In Outlook 2007 and Outlook 2010, you can find the Clear Formatting button on the Message tab in the right top of the Basic Text section.
  • In Outlook 2003 and previous you’ll need to use Word as your E-mail Editor. Then you can find the Clear Formatting option in Edit-> Clear-> Formats.

Remove unwanted characters and other text

Usually a forward contains a lot of unwanted characters or text portions such as “This message has been scanned by…”. You probably want to remove that before forwarding as well.

Many mail clients can be set to use the > character to indicate a forward. When the message has been forwarded many many times, the mail is flooded with it and the actual text is hard to read.

To easily remove all those characters or other strings of text;

  • Select the repetitive text or character you’d like to remove and press CTRL+C to copy the text into memory.
  • Bring up the Replace dialog;
    • In Outlook 2007 and Outlook 2010 you can find Replace option on the Format Text tab in the Editing section or by pressing CTRL+H.
    • In Outlook 2003 and previous you’ll need to use Word as your E-mail Editor. Then you can find the Replace option in the Edit-> Replace… or by pressing CTRL+H.
  • Press CTRL+V to paste the text in the “Find what” field.
  • Press the Replace to find and replace the selected text one by one or press the Replace All button to replace them all at once.

You can also remove non-characters such as additional line breaks and tabs by pressing the More>> button in the Find and Replace dialog and then the Special button.

Remove unwanted attachments

Depending on how the message got forwarded and by which mail client, additional attachments might have been included with the message which are usually quotes of an earlier message. Remove these as well so that only the attachments that matter are included. You can easily remove them by clicking on them with a single click and press the Delete button on your keyboard.

Change the subject

When a message gets forwarded many many times, the subject my contain additional FW: prefixes. Remove them all so that only the subject remains. You can of course change the entire subject as well when you think that is more suitable.

Use the BCC field

Now that you’ve cleaned up the email and ready to forward it to others, consider using the BCC field to address the email. This way you’ll respect the privacy of the people you send it to when the recipients do not all know each other.

To reduce the risk that the message will be marked as a Junk E-mail message, you can also consider to use a Mail Merge instead.

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