31 Words You Can’t Use in Email and Other Safety Tips

@ symbol for email Unsolicited electronic messages (the spam variety) are about as welcome as an earth-bound asteroid. Nobody likes receiving them, and professionally, you definitely don’t want to inadvertently send legitimate email to be caught-up in one of the many “spam filters.”

Being familiar with filters and other rules of road can keep your valid email marketing messages from being screened somewhere between SEND and INBOX.

In general, the better filter systems have become fairly sophisticated at screening only the offending messages. But, computer programs doing the screening are not perfect, and any given e-mailing is likely to be filtered more than once. Here are some spam-filter basics to help avoid common mistakes.

Filters keep score in three key areas…

The algorithm for many systems is a process of assigning a number of points for parts of potentially offending email. A sufficiently high point score will screen out what is judged to be junk mail. Understandably, the formula is confidential, but there are three main areas of concern:

  • Origin Network or System: Anti-spam companies track recognize commonly used “black-hat” sources of spam. This reputation factor alone is a reason to use recognized and legitimate service bureaus for email marketing.
  • Origin “Spam Engine” Software: Ordinary, brand name email programs are not useful to high-volume spammers who don’t want to be tracked. Filters recognize the bad guy’s software.
  • Subject Line and Content: Here’s where the filter system makes “thinking” judgments, scoring the topic and text for spam-clues. The total amount of text, suspicious words, and frequently used “trigger” words or phrases will raise the offending score.

Spam Triggers to Avoid

Here’s where your choice of words can make a significant difference. A filtration method compares email content to a table of hundreds of red flag words. Their list isn’t published (and it changes routinely), but for quick reference here’s a list of common trigger words to banish (or use sparingly) in your email, beginning with the subject line.

spam email trigger words

Casual or incidental use of a word or two in the broader context of the message is less likely to be interpreted as spamming. But spam filters can derail even legitimate email marketing efforts, so work on your wordsmithing and compose with care.

For additional guidance, read 8 E-mail Essentials for Greater Success and The Curious Origin of Unwanted Email.

Stewart Gandolf
Chief Executive Officer at Healthcare Success
Stewart Gandolf, MBA, is Chief Executive Officer of Healthcare Success, one of the nation's leading healthcare and digital marketing agencies. Over the past 20 years, Stewart has marketed and consulted for over 1,000 healthcare clients, ranging from practices and hospitals to multi-billion dollar corporations. A frequent speaker, Stewart has shared his expertise at over 200 venues nationwide. As an author and expert resource, Stewart has also written for many leading industry publications, including the 21,000 subscriber Healthcare Success Insight blog. Stewart also co-authored, "Cash-Pay Healthcare: Start, Grow & Perfect Your Cash-Pay Healthcare Business." Stewart began his career with leading advertising agencies, including J. Walter Thompson, where he marketed Fortune 500 clients such as Wells Fargo and Bally's Total Fitness.

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