200+ Top Spam Trigger Words to Avoid

Avoid These Spam Trigger Words To Increase Your Open Rate

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Since their creation, spam filters have been a godsend for email recipients. The inbox zero battle was nigh unwinnable without filters to sift through the junk for us.

For marketers, however, getting into the inbox became a nightmare once spam filters were introduced. Even if you’re only sending emails to subscribers who have specifically requested it, spam filters are formidable foes. They’re incredibly sensitive — touchy, even — and there are more ways to trigger them than you might think. Some marketers even refer to spam filters as the spam gods… And trust us, you don’t want to make the spam gods angry.

In this article, we’ll talk about how to stay out of your recipient’s junk folder by choosing your words wisely and avoiding spam triggers. We’ve listed over 200 here and chances are, you have used or are using some of them.

First, why is junk mail even called spam? Its origins may make you chuckle.

What Two Words Made Spam?

The words “spice” and “ham” were mashed together as part of a product naming contest. And they fit the description perfectly. Hormel’s spreadable canned meat product has been around since 1937 and became wildly popular across the globe after World War II. It’s actually not bad, as evidenced by its global market.

So how did a meat spread become associated with marketing emails?

200+ Top Spam Trigger Words to Avoid

The English comedy group Monty Python made fun of Spam with their hilarious 1970 sketch that repeated the word “spam” – to people’s great annoyance.

In the 80s, the multi-user dungeon community started referencing the Monty Python sketch to describe pranksters flooding a system with data, or flooding chats with unimportant text. In the early ‘90s, a blog post by Joel Furr brought spam into the mainstream as a term for disruptive noise, or irrelevant text.

Today, spam (lowercase) goes much deeper than simply noise. In 1998, the Oxford English Dictionary officially linked spam to junk email or any unsolicited, impersonal, and irrelevant emails that advertise, phish, or spread malware.

Hormel Foods was understandably upset that its beloved product was associated with junk emails. After a series of unsuccessful lawsuits, the company embraced the legacy — after all, even bad press is good press! The company even sponsored the 2005 musical, Spamalot.

Suddenly, spam seemed to be everywhere – and, for a while, inescapable. In 2001, eight percent of all emails were spam; but the spam monster continued growing. By 2010, spam accounted for a staggering 89 percent of all email.

What is the Most Common Spam?

Have you checked your spam folder lately? How many marriage offers from Nigerian princes did you get? How many ads for Russian brides or male enhancement products? How many notices that you’ve won something? Imagine if these were all in your inbox. What a nightmare! Many of these are selling something, but while annoying, they’re nothing more than a nuisance.

Phishing, however, is a real problem.

It is the most common form of spam today.

Phishing refers to the fraudulent use of emails to convince people to reveal personal information such as passwords, bank information, or credit card numbers. These can come in the form of fraudulent demands from scammers posing as large companies such as Amazon, or even outlandish scams like someone claiming to want to split an inheritance with you if you just provide them with your bank information.

These scammers often use urgency and fear. Unfortunately, they also use many of the subject line words that would be used by legitimate businesses.

Today’s spam filters are pretty good, but a few spam emails still sneak through. Unfortunately, the most at-risk groups (the elderly, and those who aren’t computer-savvy) often fall prey to spammers; and so, the spammers continue to slip past the filters with innovative techniques.

We love spam filters because they do weed out the junk. However, for reputable businesses who want to use email marketing to build an audience and grow their business, spam filters can mean that even well-intentioned emails go straight to the junk box.

How Do You Trigger Spam Emails?

Getting your emails past spam blockers is no small feat. Have you ever subscribed to an email only to find an email from your subscribed sender in your junk box? It’s because they used one of the trigger words, or they were flagged for other reasons. There are literally hundreds of words that get flagged as spam. This applies even if your email campaigns are successful and you’re only sending them to subscribers.

That’s why you need to avoid trigger words and put your email marketing software to work by scanning your emails for any red flags and tracking spam notices.

Before we get to the list of spam triggers, keep in mind that spam filters look beyond just words. Be careful of your attachments, broken links, or glitchy emails. Any of these can trigger spam filters.

Spam filters will also flag any “fireworks” that make emails stand out in the recipient’s inbox: excessive punctuation, weird symbols, strange fonts, all-caps, typos, a mix of type and emojis, and uppercase/lowercase jumbles. For example:

CoNgratuLAtionS!!! Youve Been ☆☆SELECTED☆☆ TO WIN a F R 3 3 YETI c↺↻ler!!!!!

Legitimate businesses typically avoid cheeseball subject line marketing, but they can get tripped up by unwittingly using spam trigger words.

How Do You Identify Spam Words?

Normal marketing words from reputable businesses have been taken over by shady spammers. Unfortunately, these are the words that are proven to work in marketing, and now legitimate businesses have to find other ways to creatively communicate with their audiences.

As you read through the following lists of words that trigger spam blockers, you’ll probably wonder how you’re supposed to sell anything without using them. We’ll tell you how!

What Words Do Spam Filters Look For?

What words get flagged as spam? The list is long, which forces marketers to come up with creative ways to get their message across. Here’s what to avoid.

Fear of Missing Out

200+ Top Spam Trigger Words to Avoid

FOMO, or fear of missing out, is a potent purchasing motivator. Any word that implies urgency automatically relates to FOMO, and it will be flagged.

Of course, there’s nothing wrong with urging your readers to action, but avoid creating false urgency or pressure. Not only will your readers become desensitized to constant artificial urgency (is it urgent, really?) but your email will get flagged. Avoid:

  • Limited time offer

  • Urgent

  • Hurry!

  • Last call

  • One time

  • Offer expires

  • This won’t last

  • While supplies last

  • Only a few left

  • Running out

  • Why pay more?

  • Time-sensitive

  • Expires soon

  • You don’t want to miss this!

  • Exclusive deal

  • New customers only

  • Important information regarding

  • Action required (or action required now)

  • Low stock/low inventory

Pushy CTA’s

200+ Top Spam Trigger Words to Avoid

Even if you’re not pushing the urgency and FOMO buttons, avoid pushy “salesy” language:

  • Do this now/do this today

  • You need to do this

  • What are you waiting for?

  • See for yourself

  • Don’t hesitate

  • Act fast!

  • Don’t miss out

  • (Do something) before it’s too late!

  • Now: take action now, buy now, call now, apply now, sign up now, subscribe now

  • Today: buy today, call today, apply today, sign up today, subscribe today

Pushing the Low Self-Esteem Buttons

200+ Top Spam Trigger Words to Avoid

Enough people already feel bad about themselves and feel like they don’t belong. Spammers take advantage of this. Always avoid pushing readers’ self-esteem buttons in a negative way:

  • Have you been turned down?

  • Have you failed at (x) in the past?

  • Join millions of Americans

  • Become part of the in-crowd

  • If only it were that easy

  • Join the tribe

  • Accepted

  • Member/become a member

  • Selected/you’ve been selected

  • Exclusive rewards just for you

  • Hand-picked for you

Impersonal Greetings

200+ Top Spam Trigger Words to Avoid

Spam filters block impersonal emails that greet the reader without using their name:

  • Dear Friend,

  • Dear,

  • Hello,

  • Greetings!

  • Valued Customer,

  • Dear Customer,

If a sender doesn’t take the time to address readers by name, readers are unlikely to do business with them anyway. It’s too obviously a generic spam email. Always personally address each and every recipient by name.

beehiiv has tools to help you gather valuable data about your readers which will help personalize emails even more.

Needy Subject Lines

200+ Top Spam Trigger Words to Avoid

If an email tries to appeal to your compassionate side, it’s probably spam.

  • Please open

  • Please read/please read — important/urgent/time-sensitive

  • Can you help me

  • Can I have a minute of your time

  • I need you to do this for me

Cry me a river, right? These subject lines are all about the seller, not the audience.

Always remember Wii-FM or, what’s in it for me (the reader) when you craft a subject line.

200+ Top Spam Trigger Words to Avoid

Outlandish Claims and Exaggeration

If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Avoid:

  • Easy

  • Once in a lifetime

  • Giving away

  • While you sleep/earn while you sleep/income while you sleep

  • Instant

  • Bargain

  • Affordable

  • Stop (snoring, smoking, overspending on…)

  • Big bucks

  • Pennies a day

  • No hidden costs

  • No cost

  • Freedom

  • Removes wrinkles

  • Reverses aging

  • Fast (cash, results, weight loss)

  • Can’t live without

  • Cheap

  • Lifetime

  • Miracle

  • Never/Always

  • Solution

  • Success

  • Consistent income

  • You won’t believe your eyes

  • Eliminate (bad credit, debt)

  • Double your income; double your wealth

  • Financial freedom/financial independence

  • Be your own boss

  • Great deals for military veterans

  • Increase (traffic, sales, conversions)

  • Get paid

  • Zero risk (or 0% risk)

  • 100% satisfaction guarantee

Even risk-averse reassurances will be flagged, even if you truly mean it. Avoid:

  • Money back guarantee

  • 100% money-back guarantee

  • Full refund

  • Satisfaction guaranteed

  • No questions asked

  • 100% refund

  • Completely satisfied or your money back

Every business wants to be seen as an established and successful entity since people are more likely to buy from a known name rather than a new business. However, don’t exaggerate. If a claim is true, don’t use numbers or claims; use social proof to illustrate the point.

200+ Top Spam Trigger Words to Avoid
  • Dozens, hundreds, thousands, millions, billions (clients, results, made/earned, satisfied customers, etc.)

  • Best

  • Opportunity

  • Success

  • Proven method/system/results/formula

  • Pure profit

  • Explode your business

  • No experience necessary

What about expressing that there’s no obligation? Sorry, it will get flagged. Avoid:

  • No obligation

  • No purchase necessary

How can you get past this when selling a product or service? Use social proof. Customer reviews, screenshots, and testimonials can show your readers that your solution works, without tooting your own horn.

Free Anything

Avoid using “free” or F R E E (gift, sample, evaluation, inspection, offer, preview, consultation, installation, access, trial, membership, info). Even F R 3 3 might get flagged.

Even if you have a legit freebie for your readers, find a different way to present it such as “complimentary,” “on the house,” or “on me.” Doubtless, eventually even words like “complimentary” will anger the spam gods – but they’re good to go as of this writing.

Dollars and Numbers

200+ Top Spam Trigger Words to Avoid

Subject lines that sell or promise will get flagged:

  • 50% off

  • 100% free

  • Limited time only, 30% off your first order

  • Finally back in stock, 50% off (x)!

  • $20-$100 off

  • Save $200

  • 80% of strokes are preventable

Fake Praise

200+ Top Spam Trigger Words to Avoid

Alongside impersonal emails, spam filters will flag emails that congratulate the reader for no reason. These emails prey on people’s desire for attention and validation.

  • Congratulations!

  • You’ve won!

  • You’re a winner!

  • Pre-approved

  • Selected

Saying Your Email Isn’t Spam

200+ Top Spam Trigger Words to Avoid

If your email isn’t spam — if you are respecting privacy laws and emailing only your subscribers — you shouldn’t have to announce that you’re not spamming them. Avoid:

  • We don’t believe in spam

  • We’ll never spam you

  • Not junk/this isn’t junk

  • Not spam/his isn’t spam

  • Don’t delete

  • Mark this email as not junk (and/or “add me to your contacts list”)

  • Information you requested

Calls to Action

200+ Top Spam Trigger Words to Avoid

It’s maddening, but even CTAs can get your emails flagged as spam if you are using what spam filters consider to be manipulative language — again, anything relating to FOMO. Also, asking your subscribers to “click” on something is an automatic flag. Avoid:

  • Click, click below, click here, click to remove, click to access, click to download

  • Cancel at any time

  • Unsubscribe at any time

  • Any FOMO/artificially urgent CTAs

Sensitive Topics

Legitimate businesses in financial and health spaces need to avoid any language referring to money and health in their subject lines:


  • Income

  • Wealth-building

  • Opportunities

  • Billing

  • Credit card; credit card debt; credit card offer; credit card info

  • Tax

  • Compensation

  • Lawsuit

  • Internet marketing/network marketing

  • Loans, financing/refinancing

  • Home-based business

  • Online business opportunity

  • Investments; investment decision; no investment; investment required

  • Money

  • Insurance

  • Guaranteed income

  • Stock pick

  • In compliance

  • Billing address/billing info/bank info/credit card info

  • Social Security number/SSN

  • No credit check

  • Wealth

  • Payday loan


  • Baldness

  • Erectile dysfunction

  • Medicine

  • Medication

  • Remedy

  • Cure

  • All-natural

  • Hormones

  • Weight loss

  • Cellulite

  • Belly fat

  • Knee pain

  • Strokes

  • Heart disease

  • Libido

  • Viagra

What if you’re a financial or medical professional? Don’t use financial or medical words in your subject line. Instead, choose a subject line that refers to the reader’s desired outcome — without using any exaggeration or outlandish claims.

The same goes for sex and guns, two other sensitive topics that regularly get flagged. If your business is sex-related or gun-related, you’ll need to come up with a creative, non-spammy way to communicate with your audience.

Phishing Phrases

200+ Top Spam Trigger Words to Avoid

You may be inadvertently using phrases that phishing scammers use. Most of these are fairly obvious, but there are some sneaky little buggers in here. Avoid using subject lines that even remotely resemble these phishing phrases:

  • Did you receive your package?

  • You’re no longer safe (for example, browsing the Internet)

  • Urgent! Please verify your information!

  • We tried to reach you

  • We tried to deliver

  • [your email] Your package is out for delivery

  • You’ve been chosen to receive a (free something)

  • You’ve won a (free something)

  • Someone tried to log into your account

  • Urgent action is required on your account

  • Shipment pending: get your exclusive discount

  • You’re about to permanently delete your contacts

What You Can Do

Spam filters use smart and ever-evolving algorithms to track everything about you as a sender. They track everything, including domain information, images, links, server information, and even your recipients. This is all part of protecting people from fraudulent emails, but it sure makes life harder for any legitimate business that uses emails to sell.

If you absolutely can’t avoid using a word that triggers spam filters, try to use it very infrequently and within context, and definitely don’t use it in the subject line.

As long as you avoid trigger words, use good email etiquette (such as only emailing people who have opted in), personalize your emails, and take good care in writing subject lines that get read but won’t flag your email spam, you’ll stay in the inbox and optimize your email campaign results.

And, don’t forget to take advantage of your email or newsletter platform analytics and testing features. beehiiv’s ever-evolving suite of products will help you craft emails that won’t get flagged for spam, that will stand out in the inbox, and will keep your subscribers eagerly awaiting your next communication.

Questions about how beehiiv can help you share your message? Check out our blog, where we talk about everything email–from sending emails that get opened, to the ultimate guide on email deliverability–without angering the spam gods.

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