E-mails fail to reach recipients for many
reasons, some of which may be completely out of your control. But,
there are quite a few which you can easily control by adopting simple
steps. One such step is to make sure your e-mail does not look like
spam or virus carrier. We discuss here what makes an e-mail suspect
and how to avoid it in your e-mail communication.
Continuing from previous issue on how Spam Filters work - we discuss
here reasons why a legitimate e-mail may get blocked by spam filter
or the recipient may destroy without reading - suspecting it to
be spam or virus !
Wording of Subject - Some Do's and Don'ts
Spam Filters take special care to analyze subject
as it is often the easiest part to crack. E-mail users, who receive
large number of e-mails, often check e-mails at server and download
these only after deleting suspect looking e-mails. A quick glance
at subject of an e-mail is often considered enough to decide on
its future. That's how important the subject line of your e-mail
Common Mistakes in Subject Construction
- No Subject: Always use a subject - e-mails
with no subject often get blocked by spam filters
- Vague Subject: N/A is not a legitimate subject
- please be more imaginative
- Single Word: Never use single word as subject.
Most spammers and virus-carrying e-mails use single word as subject
(e.g. Information, Important, Urgent, Password, Hi, Hello etc.)
- Suspicious Subject: like 'I need your help',
'My Plight' 'DEAR SIR' etc. Scamsters often use such subject.
- Offending Subject: e.g. 'Reply Required',
'Respond ASAP' Do not insult or offend recipient by deliberate
or unintentional use of such words. Your mail may end up in trash
- Virus like Subject : e.g. Re: Your Document,
Very Urgent, Re: Failure etc. E-mails with such subject and file
attachment invariably carry virus.
How to Construct a Meaningful Subject ?
Purpose of subject is to inform the recipient about
content of e-mail, help him/her save time. An ideal subject should
be the one that is able to summarize content of e-mail in one short
Obviously - the key issue here is specificity. Your subject should
be specific enough to tell the recipient what the e-mail is all
Additionally, many email messages go back and forth several times
over, so it's important to accurately describe what the reader will
find inside and remind him/her of the on-going issue.
Considering the level of spam and anti-spam software in place today,
you can't afford to risk your message not being delivered because
of a generic or poorly worded subject line. A subject line such
as, 'What's Up ?' or 'How do you feel' doesn't tell the recipient
On the other hand 'Need CIF Value of Short Grain Rice - Re: your
quotation #572-04' is far more specific.
However, do not overdo the specific act as long subject line defeats
its very purpose. Remember, a legitimate message coming from your
plant in Hong Kong advising you that "they've still had no luck
increasing the prototype by 3 inches" is unlikely to ever make it
past today's spam filters !
Some Other Desirable Features
- Subject line should not be too long - preferably less than 76
- Never use all Capitals
- Use unique keyword or phrase for quick identification of sender
or issue (e.g. Attn: Mr. Ashok Bajaj, Ref: Product Catalog #23873
Brass Ashtray etc.)
Happy and Productive Surfing
Dr. Amit K Chatterjee
- Newsletter on Business Opportunties from India and Abroad
Vol: 5, Issue 7
; September 23' 2004
Dr. Amit K. Chatterjee
(Amit worked in blue-chip Indian and MNCs for 15 years in various
capacities like Research and Information Analysis, Market Development,
MIS, R&D Information Systems etc. before starting his e-commerce
venture in 1997. The views expressed in this columns are of
his own. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org