“No, I never got that email.”

Is that your awkward reply when asked why you didn’t respond to that important email?

“Check your spam folder and see if it’s there,” you are told. Now, awkwardness turns to embarrassment when you find you did receive that important email. It just somehow wound up in spam among the various offers for bargain vacations and pleas for help from Nigerian princesses.

Spam filters are great, when they work the way you want them to. They keep your already-overflowing Inbox from getting more out of control. Spam filters are terrible when they accidentally grab the good stuff along with the bad.

Why do items end up in spam?
Spam filters use a combination of indicators to determine what is marked as spam:

  • They come from senders who you have marked as adding to the spam list.
  • They are sent to many recipients (large number of people in the TO, CC, or BCC line).
  • The subject contains certain words, such as “free,” “amazing offer,” “sex,” etc.
  • The subject contains excessive punctuation or is written in all caps.
  • The email contains a great number of links, pictures, or has a large attachment.


How is your spam filter functioning?
Start by taking a look at where you are now:

  • Look in your spam folder right now and get an idea of what is there. You will surely be pleased to see all of the stuff which is not showing up in your Inbox.
  • Do you see emails which are actually not spam, emails you wish had come to your Inbox? It’s time to train your email program on how to recognize those as good emails next time.


If you use Gmail…
As you examine the items in your spam folder, place a check mark beside items you wish had come to your Inbox. Click the “Not spam” button towards the top of the screen. This type of email will come to your Inbox from now on.

By the way, if you don’t see a “Spam” folder on the left-hand side of your screen, go to your Gmail settings (found under the cog in the upper-right corner). On the “Labels” tab, click “show” beside the selection for Spam.

If you use Outlook…
As you examine the items in your spam folder, right-click any email you wish had come to your Inbox. Under the “Junk Email” menu item, you will see an option to “Mark as Not Junk.” You will also see the option to “Add Sender to Safe Senders List.”

If you use something else…
If you use someone else for your email, you should see menu items which let you do those same two things:

  • Mark a particular email as “not spam.”
  • Mark the sender’s email address is one that should be considered as trusted.

This article from Constant Contact gives the procedures for numerous email software services.

Add the sender to your contacts list
If you want to avoid emails from someone ending up in spam to start with, go ahead and add the sender to your contacts. You generally see this advice when you sign up for any newsletter. If a sender is in your contacts, the chances of your email winding up in spam are greatly reduced.

You can train your email program to keep the bad stuff out and deliver the good stuff. Now you know how.