Common spam trigger word list guide

Profile photo of author Tracey Wallace
Email marketing
January 24th 2014
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Looking for a spam trigger word list? Look no further!

It’s a whole new world out there in marketingland with the Gmail promotions tab and eCommerce marketers are getting desperate, resorting to a variety of things in subject lines to grab readers’ attention:

  • Shapes: Heart symbols, four-leaf clover symbols, stars
  • Hyperbole. Is it really the best sale ever? Honestly?
  • Creepy punctuation…

Spam filters are like Google’s SEO: It’s always changing – sometimes in big ways and sometimes in small ways. But there are some rules that remain constant about spam filters. If you keep them in mind when you write your emails, you’ll get much better delivery rates.

How Spam Filters Work

Even permission-based lists can become victims of aggressive spam filters, which block 10-20% of email from subscribers’ inboxes. There’s a pretty long list of criteria that spam filters take into consideration in judging a campaign’s spaminess. Filters weight each factor. Then they add them up to a spam score, which determines whether a campaign will pass through the filter. Passing scores are determined by individual server administrators. This means that what passes some filters doesn’t pass all of them.

Servers take these factors into account when determining deliverability:

  • Subject line: We’ll go into best practices here further into this post
  • To: field: They want to see that you know your recipient.
  • Content: It’s important to strike the right balance between text and images. One big image isn’t  the best idea.
  • IP Address: This is a tricky one. If someone in your IP range is spamming, you could get flagged too.
  • The From name and email address: Another way for filters to check whether you’re acquainted with a recipient is to verify the sender against the recipient’s address book.
  • Your domain name: They check to see if your domain name is authenticated

This is a very high level overview the mechanics of spam filters. It’s a complicated process with plenty of grey area, but for this post we’ll focus mostly on subject line language.

Words to Avoid

Financial/General Terms

  • Cash
  • Cents on the dollars
  • Claims
  • F r e e
  • Hidden assets
  • Incredible deal
  • Loans
  • Money
  • One hundred percent free
  • Price
  • Quote
  • Save big month
  • Subject to credit
  • Unsecured debt
  • Affordable
  • Best price
  • Cash bonus
  • Cheap
  • Collect
  • Credit
  • Earn
  • Fast cash
  • hidden charges
  • Insurance
  • Lowest price
  • Money back
  • No cost
  • Only $
  • Profits
  • Refinance
  • Save up to
  • They keep your money – no refund-
  • US dollars
  • Bargain
  • Big bucks
  • Cashcashcash
  • Check
  • Compare rates
  • Credit bureaus
  • Easy terms
  • For just $XXX
  • Income
  • Investment
  • Million dollars
  • Mortgage
  • No fees
  • Pennies a day
  • Save $
  • Serious case
  • Why pay more?

Financial/Business Related Terms

  • Accept Credit Cards
  • Cards accepted
  • Credit card offers
  • Explode your business
  • Stocks/stock pick/stock alert

Personal finance

  • Check or money order
  • Full refund
  • Investment decision
  • No credit check
  • No hidden costs
  • No investment
  • Requires initial investment
  • Sent in compliance
  • Social security number

General terms

  • Acceptance
  • Accordingly
  • Avoid
  • Chance
  • Here
  • Leave
  • Maintained
  • Never
  • Remove
  • Satisfaction
  • Success
  • Teen
  • Wife
  • Reverses
  • Passwords/password
  • Lifetime
  • Medium
  • Freedom
  • Sample
  • Stop
  • Home
  • Avoid


  • Dear email/friend/[first name]
  • Friend
  • Hello


  • Cures baldness
  • Human growth hormone
  • Lose weight
  • Weight loss
  • Vicodin
  • Online pharmacy
  • Valium
  • Removes wrinkles
  • Diagnostics
  • Life Insurance
  • Medicine
  • Human growth hormone
  • Stop snoring
  • Reverses aging
  • Xanax
  • Fast Viagra delivery
  • No medical exams


  • #1
  • 100% free
  • 100% satisfied
  • Join thousands/Join millions/Join billions
  • 4U
  • Billion dollars/million dollars
  • Billion/million


  • Call
  • Deal
  • Giving away
  • Financial freedom
  • Gift certificate
  • Cannot be combined with any other offer
  • Guarantee
  • Important information regarding
  • Main in order form
  • Nigerian
  • No claim forms
  • No gimmick
  • No obligation
  • No selling
  • Not intended
  • Offer
  • Obligation
  • Per day
  • Off shore
  • Reduce debt
  • Have you been turned down?
  • If only it were that easy
  • Long distance phone offer
  • Name brand
  • No catch
  • No experience
  • No middleman
  • No questions asked
  • No-obligation
  • Per day/per week/per year
  • Vacation
  • Timeshare
  • Vacation offers
  • Timeshare offers
  • Warranty
  • We honor all
  • Weekend getaway
  • What are you waiting for?
  • Who really wins?
  • Win/winner/winning/won
  • You are a winner!
  • You have been selected
  • You are a winner!


  • Get
  • Print out and fax
  • Compare
  • Give it away
  • See for yourself
  • Copy accurately
  • Print form signature
  • Sign up free today
  • Compare
  • Cancel at any time

“Free” Terminology

  • Free
  • Free consultation
  • Free grant money
  • Free instant
  • Free membership
  • Free preview
  • Free sample
  • Free access
  • Free DVD
  • Free hosting
  • Free investment
  • Free money
  • Free priority mail
  • Free trial
  • Free cell phone
  • Free installation
  • Free leads
  • Free offer
  • Free quote
  • Free website

Words Misc.

  • All natural
  • Certified
  • Fantastic deal
  • It’s effective
  • Real thing
  • Risk free
  • All new
  • Congratulations
  • For free
  • Outstanding values
  • Risk free
  • Amazing
  • Drastically reduced
  • Guaranteed
  • Promise you
  • Satisfaction guaranteed
  • Addresses on CD
  • Beverage
  • Bonus
  • Brand new pager
  • Celebrity
  • Legal
  • Phone
  • Rolex
  • Copy DVDs
  • Luxury car
  • New domain extensions
  • Stainless steel
  • Gold
  • Casino
  • XXX

Sense of Urgency

  • Access
  • Act now!
  • Apply now
  • Can’t live without
  • Don’t hesitate
  • For you
  • Great offer
  • Instant
  • Now
  • Once in a lifetime
  • Order now
  • Special promotion
  • Time limited
  • Act Now!
  • Call free
  • Do it today
  • For instant access
  • Get it now
  • Info you requested
  • Limited time
  • Now only
  • One time
  • Supplies are limited
  • Urgent
  • Apply now
  • Call now
  • Don’t delete
  • For Only
  • Get Started Now
  • Offer expires
  • Only
  • Please read
  • Take action now
  • While supplies last
  • Home mortgage
  • Problem with shipping
  • Problem with your order
  • Order status
  • Shopper
  • Clearance
  • $$$
  • Affordable
  • Big bucks
  • Cialis, Viagra (and similar)
  • Cheap meds
  • Weight loss
  • As seen on Oprah
  • Replica watches
  • Gift card
  • Diet
  • Millions
  • Earn your degree
  • Bad credit
  • Easy income
  • Work from home
  • Lottery
  • Pay your bills
  • Free laptop
  • Job alert
  • Foreclosure
  • Bankruptcy
  • Timeshare

5 Big Takeaways to Keep in Mind:

  1. Absolute promises don’t work: Absolute guarantees and descriptions of your offer seem to be taken as too good to be true by spam filters. If it’s free or the best sale ever, or a miracle solution, it’s BS in the eyes of spam filters.
  2. Keep an eye on your transactional emails: It’s interesting to find stuff like “password” or “your order” on this list of things to avoid. I think that’s because honest subject lines sent to customers got hijacked by spammers hoping to get into the inboxes of victims. So now genuine business owners like yourself have to think up new ways to title these interactions. So maybe instead of “Password reset” as the subject line try “Here you go.” If I’m the recipient and I’m expecting an email from you, I’ll know what you are talking about.
  3. Over-excited language and punctuation doesn’t usually work:  “SUPER SALE!!!!” or “OMG!!!” can get you flagged. Find more creative ways to indicate a sense of urgency.
  4. Symbols are tricky territory: It’s tough because you want to have a reason to bug your recipients with an email, a sale is a good reason to do so, and communicating a sale with $20 off or 20% off subject line is the easiest way to go. You just have to be careful so that you get don’t mixed in with the weirdos sending the “Dear Friend” emails and selling pills.
  5. See what works for you: Always measure and test and see what works for you. I’ve seen plenty of these words show up in my inbox from totally legitimate companies, and totally unrelated subject lines in spam. It’s always important to know your audience, the terminology of your industry, and test what will work in the context of your company. To amp up your testing efforts, you can also use tools like Litmus to check your email against the spam filters of common email clients to make sure you aren’t running into issues.

What other tips do you have for keeping subject lines out of spam, while still coming up with creative subject lines that generate opens? Let us know in the comments!

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Tracey Wallace
Tracey Wallace
Director, content strategy
Tracey is the Director of content strategy at Klaviyo. Previously, she has led marketing teams for early stage start-ups from $0 to >$10M in revenue, and was the former Editor-in-Chief at BigCommerce, where she grew organic content sessions to 1M monthly and 20K monthly content downloads. She started her career in journalism at and, later, Mashable.