100 spam trigger words that can kill your email copy

September 1, 2011 by Dean Rieck
Filed under: Checklists 

spam trigger wordsThe same qualities that make email attractive to legitimate advertisers also make email attractive to spammers.

To combat the ongoing flood of spam, Internet Service Providers, email marketing services, and even email program companies (such as Mozilla or Microsoft) analyze millions of messages and compile lists of “trigger” words and phrases most often associated with spam. These trigger words and phrases are then used to filter incoming messages.

This is a good thing, since it helps reduce the amount of unwanted messages we all receive. But it’s also a bad thing, since it invariably snares legitimate messages from honest advertisers.

This means that when you’re writing email messages for a client or for your own business, you face a unique challenge. Because, like it or not, seemingly innocent copy, especially in the subject line, can kill your email copy.

Here’s one example of a spam trigger word list from Vertical Response:

100% satisfied
Accept credit cards
Act Now!
Additional Income
All natural
All new
Apply online
Best price
Billing address
Buy direct
Call free
Can’t live without
Cards Accepted
Cents on the dollar
Click / Click Here / Click Below
Click to remove
Compare rates
Cost / No cost
Dear friend
Do it today
Extra income
For free
Free and FREE
Free installation
Free leads
Free membership
Free offer
Free preview
Free website
Full refund
Get it now
Giving away
Increase sales
Increase traffic
Information you requested
Investment / no investment
Investment decision
Marketing solutions
Message contains
Month trial offer
Name brand
No gimmicks
No Hidden Costs
One time / one-time
Order / Order Now / Order today / Order status
Orders shipped by priority mail
Please read
Potential earnings
Print out and fax
Real thing
Removal instructions
Risk free
Satisfaction guaranteed
Save $
Save up to
Search engines
See for yourself
Serious cash
Special promotion
The following form
US dollars
Work at home

I know what you’re thinking: “This is ridiculous! Solution? Urgent? Phone? Those are spam words?” It’s not pretty, but this is the world you live in when you’re writing email copy.

Your email won’t get snared just because you include one of these words. Filters use formulas that assign spam points to each message. The words above, or words on other lists, add points. When your message accumulates enough points, the message is filtered.

Talk to the email service that will send your message and ask for their most current spam trigger word list. Be particularly careful about your subject lines.

There’s no way to know whether any particular message will get snared by any particular filter, but you can improve the odds by staying current on the trigger words spammers are using.

Related posts:

  1. How to write email marketing messages that get clicks
  2. Merlin’s 5-step method for managing your email inbox
  3. Email copywriting: an interview with Ivan Levison
  4. Why vanity phone numbers can kill your ad copy
  5. Writing compelling copy with a stick and red feathers

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Smart Comments

9 Comments on 100 spam trigger words that can kill your email copy

  1. copywriter on Sep 1st, 2011 10:43 pm
  2. What a shame filters don’t generally pick up on irregular capitalisation and odd character use yet. That will really sort the oats from the goats …

  3. Eddie Gear on Sep 3rd, 2011 5:01 am
  4. Thanks for the cool list Dean. I am working on my first newsletter course and I will make sure that I do not use the words mentioned. Its been a while I visited your blog. Its good to be reading some good stuff.

  5. Janet Aldrich on Sep 8th, 2011 9:29 am
  6. I knew some of this, but not all and I can see this being really helpful! Thank you!

  7. Lucy Smith on Sep 8th, 2011 7:58 pm
  8. What a pain when some of those are legitimately good words for marketers to use, and appear in books like Words that Sell.

    But yes, I see the point – try not to write something like “Special Promotion – Work at Home for Serious Cash and Extra Income, One time, No Obligation Opportunity, Risk-free, See For Yourself!” and you should be golden ;-)

    [...] a list for your bulletin board: 100 spam trigger words that can kill your email copy by Dean Rieck at the ProCopyTips [...]

  9. Tom on Sep 23rd, 2011 9:28 am
  10. They should add ‘penis’, ‘pills’ and ‘enlargement’ to the list too.

  11. Dean Rieck on Sep 23rd, 2011 2:27 pm
  12. I believe they’re assuming those words are obvious.

  13. Megan on Sep 29th, 2011 2:20 pm
  14. Wow, I didn’t even realize such a list exists. It makes sense, though, since most of the words on list are ones that I see in spam emails. That has to be a difficult job trying to filter out the bad from the good.

  15. Janjan on Jan 17th, 2012 7:19 am
  16. These is nice. I always hate spam letters, now I know how they come to my spam box. But me too don’t like to make a decent letter that will be filtered spam. You can still use all of these words but if you overuse or use a lot of different words that’s on these list, your mail will be filtered as spam. Thanks for sharing this list, these will surely help a lot.
    Nice post.