How to Edit Received Emails in macOS Mail

Clean up emails people send you by editing them yourself

Editing messages you've already received might seem unnecessary, but there might be times when you need to add a subject to an email that doesn't have one or fix broken URLs or spelling mistakes.

Instructions in this article apply to Mac OS X Tiger (10.4) and later.

How to Edit Received Emails in macOS Mail

Fortunately, while this isn't a one-click process, it is straightforward. You'll copy the email you want to edit, make the changes in a text editor, import the new version back into Mail, and delete the original.

  1. Drag and drop the message out of Mail and onto the desktop (or any folder).

    Dragging message to desktop
  2. Right-click the EML file you just dragged onto the desktop and go to Open With > TextEdit.

    If you don't see that option, go to Open With > Other... to open the Choose an application to open the document <name> window. Pick TextEdit from the list and hit Open.

    Open email with TextEdit
  3. With the message now open in TextEdit, you're free to make any changes you want.

    Since it might be hard to sift through the text file to find the subject and body, use the Edit > Find > Find menu in TextEdit to search the whole document. Look for content-type to find where the subject, body, "To" address, and more are stored.

    Edited email in TextEdit on a Mac
  4. Go to File > Save to save the changes to the email file, and then close down TextEdit.

    The keyboard shortcut is Command+S.

    Saving in TextEdit
  5. Right-click the file on your desktop again and select Mail from the Open With menu.

    Opening file with Mail
  6. Select Messages > Copy to and choose the same location you originally dragged the email from.

    Copy back into Mail
  7. Close the message window and confirm that the edited message appears in Mail.

    The changes you made may not appear in the preview window, but they will show up if you open the message.

  8. It's now safe to delete the copy you made on the desktop.

Was this page helpful?