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Silly Spam Story

A couple of weeks ago I noticed that email I was expecting was not arriving. I was waiting to receive email replies from a couple of specific clients, but, oddly, they did not appear. To add to the mystery, my husband Michael, who works at the next desk, was getting copies of messages to me that I myself was not receiving. Strange!

Michael is our Information Technology department, so he tried everything to track the reason for the missing email. The reason seemed to be tied to the spam rules I had set up in Outlook–particularly since I had very recently changed those rules on my computer. (Spam rules allow email recipients to block email that contains certain words or is from certain people.)

Then, in one of those moments of brilliance, I solved the mystery. It had to do with the signature block I use on my outgoing messages. It includes my title:

Founder, Business Writing Specialist

Do you notice anything about my title that might cause a spam filter to block it? I’ll give you a big hint:

Founder, Business Writing Specialist

I had recently added the brand name of the “sexual performance drug” Cialis to my list of words to block, since much of the spam I receive has to do with sex-related marketing. Consequently, when clients replied to my email, their replies were being deleted from my inbox immediately–all because their replies included my previous message with my specialist signature block.

How ironic: My signature block caused my email to be blocked! I guess I need to change my title from specialist to expert. After all, I do not want my email to be blocked by my clients’ spam filters.

If only spammers would find good jobs that help our efficiency rather than hinder it.

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By Lynn Gaertner-Johnston

Lynn Gaertner-Johnston has helped thousands of employees and managers improve their business writing skills and confidence through her company, Syntax Training. In her corporate training career of more than 20 years, she has worked with executives, engineers, scientists, sales staff, and many other professionals, helping them get their messages across with clarity and tact.

A gifted teacher, Lynn has led writing classes at more than 100 companies and organizations such as MasterCard, Microsoft, Boeing, Nintendo, REI, AARP, Ledcor, and Kaiser Permanente. Near her home in Seattle, Washington, she has taught managerial communications in the MBA programs of the University of Washington and UW Bothell. She has created a communications course, Business Writing That Builds Relationships, and provides the curriculum at no cost to college instructors.

A recognized expert in business writing etiquette, Lynn has been quoted in "The Wall Street Journal," "The Atlantic," "Vanity Fair," and other media.

Lynn sharpened her business writing skills at the University of Notre Dame, where she earned a master's degree in communication, and at Bradley University, with a bachelor's degree in English.