How to Edit Received Emails in macOS Mail

Clean up emails people send you by editing them yourself

Red pencil on stack of paper
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Editing messages you've already received might seem unnecessary, but there are probably times when you need to add a subject to an email that doesn't have one, or fix broken URLs or bad spelling mistakes, etc.

Fortunately, while this isn't a one-click process, it is pretty straightforward so long as you follow the steps in order.

What we'll do is copy the email we want to edit so that we can make changes to it in a text editor, and then we'll import that new email file back into Mail and delete the original.

Edit Received Emails in macOS Mail

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

  2. Right-click the EML file you just made 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.

  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.

  4. Go to File > Save to save the changes to the email file, and then close down TextEdit.

  5. Repeat Step 1 and 2 but this time choose Mail from the Open With menu so that the email file opens back up in the Mail program.

  6. With that email selected and open, use Mail's menu to access  Message > Copy to, and choose the email's original folder location from Step 1.

    For example, pick Inbox if it was in the Inbox folder, Sent if the Sent folder, etc.

  7. Close the message window and confirm that the edited message was imported into Mail.

  8. It's now safe to delete the copy you made on the Desktop as well as the original message within Mail.