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Most of us probably remember George Carlin’s (may he rest in peace) “7 Words You Can’t Say on TV”. What fewer
realize is that there is a list of words that you may not want to say in email, as if there is already a reason for inbox providers to look askance at your email, they may push it over the edge, into spam filter territory. (If your email is otherwise squeaky clean then these won’t matter as much, if at all.) And, actually, there are a whole lot more of them than seven.

Oh sure, some of them are the ones you’d imagine, like “Viagra”, “hot chicks”, and “Angelina Jolie”.

But many – and I mean MANY – of them are ones you’d never expect could get you in trouble, and cause your email to go to the junk folder.

Such as “One hundred percent guaranteed.”

Or how many of you have some variation of this one in your email?:

[This info is provided by us. We get you to the inbox. Learn how here.]

“You are receiving this email because you registered with a partner.”

Or some version of:

“You requested this email.”

No?

Ok, how about this one:

“This email complies with CAN-SPAM.”

Yes, that can nail you – you need to be CAN-SPAM compliant, but don’t say that you’re CAN-SPAM compliant.

Ok, some of you may not say any of the above in your mailings (although I’m sure by now that most of you are surprised to see them here), but how about this one:

Language that indicates that the recipient can be removed from the list, or tells them how they can be removed from the mailings.

Gotcha, didn’t I?

Because, of course, best practices (and Federal law) dictate that you have to include an unsubscribe link in all bulk commercial email.

So yes, you should include that link – but no, you shouldn’t talk it up.

The lesson here is that you need to carefully scrutinize the content of your email, because the ISPs and spam filters are also carefully scrutinizing every word in your email. (The above examples came directly from the most current version of SpamAssassin.)

If you are having deliverability problems, and you are “pretty sure” that you are doing everything else right, there is a good chance that your actual content – your words – is the culprit. Start looking at your content with a very critical eye, and see where you may have some word in common with the spam that you receive. Sure, it can be difficult, even crazy-making, because let’s face it, spammers use lots of words that regular people do too. But it’s what you need to do in order to help ensure that your mail gets through, while ISPs try to ensure that the spam doesn’t.

(By the way, our Email Deliverability Handbook contains a section with dozens of words that can trip your email up.)

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3 Responses

  1. We use Iventa to send out a lot of our emails. Since we share servers with their other clients (even tho they have promised that we don’t) if one gets reported we all go down. Biggest problem is usually with Comcast. They are the first to block our emails. It’s frustrating and we’re moving off Iventa asap. Wish everyone on their servers read your posts!! LOL

    With smiles,
    ~Nikki

  2. Interesting article Anne. I can’t wait to read the rest of it in your handbook!

    I don’t understand why you get penalized for using 100%(oops, ding!) text based HTML messages. The format of the message is consistent and easier for the recipient to read.

    Nikki, Comcast is my ISP, so I am trapped. I can’t send anything out and nothing comes in. Anne is going to fix this though, right?
    BTW – nice web site, I am a single father and coming up with dinner drives me crazy!

    Good Living,
    Colby

  3. Awesome post. (I found it through Adam Urbanski on Twitter.) Thanks very much for the useful information.

    We never even come close to spamming, but Yahoo! almost always filters out our messages. I had to set up a separate account with a different host just so I could get messages to those people.

    Thanks to you, maybe we won’t be filtered out of the other ones, at least. Great post.

    Leigh Ann Hubbard
    Managing Editor
    James Hubbard’s My Family Doctor

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