Spam filters grab good with bad

Monday, 19 January 2004, 1:27 PM EST

Do not use profanity. Be very careful when discussing financial or business affairs. Avoid any mention of your private parts. Do not offer any guarantees, or refer to checks that may or may not be in the mail.

Refrain from describing anything or anybody as "free." Abstain from the exuberant use of punctuation marks. Shun simple salutations like "Hello," and opt instead to craft a detailed, personalized subject line.

Oh, and don't ever use the word opt, particularly in conjunction with the words "in" or "out."

These are fast becoming the new rules of e-mail communication, enforced not by prim-faced etiquette experts but by spam filters that scrutinize the contents of incoming messages for "spammy" words and shuttle suspects off to junk-mail holding tanks or directly into the abyss of the deleted items folder.

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