Spammy Words

It’s hard to pick the right words. Finding phrases and terms that will resonate with your subscribers is difficult enough, but there’s also the danger that your perfect word could trigger spam filters. Although email content is just one part of the many facets of deliverability, it’s one of the easiest to control and thus a great place to avoid mistakes.

Return Path’s Inbox Preview helps you test your content before deployment for any content issues that may impact deliverability by running your email through a large battery of spam filter checks. These checks focus solely on your email content to help isolate content-related issues. We took a look at these tests to see what similarities exist for email content that is considered spammy, and came up with a list of the top spammy words. Here’s a CSV export of words with their relative score, and a word cloud of the top 50 words:


You may not find the canonical spammy words you expected, like prescription drug names and money, because this is looking at legitimate email content from all Return Path customers and not email just from spammers. Thus these words are even more relevant as they’re words that we all use in everyday emails. Some interesting trends are the prevalence of words that end in exclamation marks and winning. Financial words such as “pledge”, “affiliate”, and “insurance” also ranked highly.

These are words that we found in content that was considered spam, not necessarily content that causes an email to be spam. That is, this spammy words list is a correlation and not a causation. These are words that spammy emails have in common, but spam filter checks may not use these words as spam triggers. If one of your favorite words is on this list, it may be worth trying a synonym or other phrase next time and see if your deliverability changes, but you shouldn’t feel compelled to avoid these words. So much goes into deliverability that great subscriber engagement, reputation, and certification can get you to the inbox safely (learn more at Everything You Know About Email Content Filtering is Wrong).

The old Inbox Preview used to assess your email content for these spammy words with each test, and we’ve sunset this feature as email deliverability has become much more than just the words we use. Users were also mistaking this correlation for causation, and thus avoiding words that would truly increase subscriber engagement in unnecessary fear that it would impact deliverability. If you do have a serious spammy word problem in your Inbox Preview tests, the new Inbox Preview will show this as a failure reason in Barracuda and/or Symantec. For instance, here are Barracuda results for an email that discusses weight loss too much:


We hope you found this spammy word list helpful and interesting, and if you’d like to see more resources like this please let us know in the comments. We’d also love to hear if there’s anything on this list that surprised you or if you had success trying different words in your next campaign.

P.S. Forget winners pledge warranty daily!

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