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Email Etiquette and Whitelisting

This week I received an email from someone suggesting that we get together to network and learn about each other’s businesses. Like me, she lives in Seattle.

I enthusiastically emailed my reply. Then I received this response:

“I apologize for this automatic reply to your email.

“To control spam, I now allow incoming messages only from senders I have approved beforehand.

“If you would like to be added to my list of approved senders, please fill out the short request form (see link below). Once I approve you, I will receive your original message in my inbox. You do not need to resend your message. I apologize for this one-time inconvenience.”

The link below the message took me to a screen in which I had to verify my name and email address and type the wavy letters I saw in a box.

It took me only a minute to read the message and take the action. The one-time inconvenience was brief. But why inconvenience others at all, especially if we are reaching out to them?

I suggest that people who use such spam-control methods add people to their whitelist (their list of people whose email will be accepted) before they send them email. If they do so, replying will be hassle-free for those they want to correspond with.

What do you suggest?

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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.

6 comments on “Email Etiquette and Whitelisting”

  • I totally agree with you, Lynn! The sender could have at least given recipients a heads-up:

    “After you send your reply, please don’t be alarmed if you receive an automated anti-spam security message. It’s quick and painless–promise!”

  • Great topic to cover Lynn! It is not only a matter of inconvenience for the recipient, but one risks the other side not following through even though such minimal effort is required.

    I have a couple articles on my Business E-mail Etiquette site that you might find helpful with this topic, including links to how to whitelist and not look spammy (the number one reason e-mails are blocked).

    HTH! Looking forward to more of you posts!

    At your service,

  • I definitely agree with you Lynn, and Judith. As I was reading this post, I was thinking to myself that I would never follow that link for fear that it was a phishing scam. Unless I know the person or service emailing me I am just as wary as they were.

    I think whitelisting before sending out an email is a must – if you want to solicit my help, business, or just opinions, I don’t want to be inconvenienced.

  • I hate these spam control tools to begin with. They essentially shift the burden of spam control from the receiver to the sender, which I think is bad practice. Most e-mail programs come with a way for the user to designate that an e-mail is spam and from that time on will block the e-mail address. The receiver should do this, rather than force the sender through extra steps. More than once I’ve decided not to bother with this process. I can’t imagine I’m the only one.

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