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Putting a Stop to Junk and Jokes in Your Email Inbox

Between email, forums, chats, and all the other methods of communication available today, we are inundated with words. Okay, I’m inundated. Overwhelmed. Frustrated.

Over 10 years ago when just enough people were online and had email, the need to spread jokes and idiot babble via email started. Eventually, email spam got into the act. At one time, I had over 1000 emails coming into my inbox every day. It was completely overwhelming.

I started making rules for all friends, family, and co-workers on what they could and could not email us. It took some time, but for the most part, it worked. Really well. Email spam filters improved, which knocked down a lot of the junk, and well-meaning friends got the hint when their email inboxes started overflowing, too.

If you are a joke email forwarder, stop. Please stop. For everyone’s sake. If you believe that your life will come to a pitiful and horrible end because you didn’t forward that hopeful, inspirational, and funny email to 20 people within those precious 10 seconds, then I can’t help you. But this could answer my question about the people in the demographics of those who keep buying the newspaper rags that spout “New Jersey Attacked By Killer Octopus”.

There is a very bad side effect to being the sender and forwarder of jokes and junk emails. If I’m used to getting a lot of joke emails from you, and I’m in the habit of deleting them because I don’t have time to read the same joke 18 times from 12 different people over 10 years (people forget and resend the same jokes – ARGGH!), what do you think I will do if you send me a real, legit email? Huh?

I call this playing “email wolf”. If you cry wolf long enough, and there is no wolf, how we will ever believe you when you cry wolf and there is a wolf? Think about it.

I was presenting a program recently and was asked about how to say “no” to all that junk email from well-intentioned folks. We all hate it, but how do you put a stop to it?

Putting a Stop to Junk and Jokes in Your Email Inbox: My Stop Junk Email Form Letter

The following is a copy of a “form letter” I send out to everyone. Especially when the level of jokes and junk email rises, which it’s done again recently. I’ve perfected it over the years and it works. Typically, they send back a relieved “thank you” and request to use it themselves. Even those who perpetuate the junk email that litters the Internet bandwidth hate it.

Here is my form letter, and you are welcome to use it, just personalize it for your own needs:

As a reminder, because we travel so much and are often struggling to find an Internet connection, we ask you to respect the following when sending email to us:

1. Unless you warn us in advance, and per our permission, do not send any files or emails larger than 50K.
2. Do not put us on any joke or email forwarding lists.
3. If you find a joke that you know we will personally adore, that suits our lifestyle, life, and sense of humor, please send it. We all need a good laugh. However, we’ve been on the Internet for over 10 years and we’ve read just about all the jokes, stories, and chain letters at least 6 times. Don’t send it.
4. All PPS, MPEG, and huge graphic and picture files emailed to us without advance permission and which do not pertain to our work will be deleted without reading or viewing.
5. If the email, joke or otherwise, says the following: “Send this immediately to 10 people or else”, it will be deleted immediately and never forwarded.
6. Our email spam and virus filters are very strong. Anything with swear words, sex words, advertising, or suspicious files will be deleted before we ever see it. Careful what you say! 😉
7. We get 50-200 emails a day, and that’s not counting spam. It can take us a while to get through all of it, especially if we’ve been away and/or traveling. Be patient. And if you need a response immediately, and don’t get one, call us or email me again to make sure I see it and to make sure it got through the filters, just in case.
8. This is not a personal attack. We send this to everyone, and have for over 10 years.
9. As for us sending you jokes, pictures, cartoons, graphics, movies, and such, we don’t. We have THAT much respect for you. That is unless we know that this will have you falling on the floor laughing your ass off with tears running down your face in hysterics. Then we will send it. We have THAT much respect for you, and your sense of humor.
10. And for those of you who have seen this email 3 or 5 times, we apologize for our redundancy. What goes around comes around over and over and over and over and over…


This won’t stop those determined to send you jokes and junk. Don’t waste your time with them and don’t respond. Just delete them. Wait a while, and then try a slightly harder tact, explaining how inundated you are and that is interfering with your work and life. They might finally get the hint.

There will always be those who just won’t get it. At least you’ve culled the pack of junk and joke meals down to a respectable number, so you can handle the ones that don’t think you are talking to them.

I hope this helps, if not completely stops all those junk emails.

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  1. Posted August 8, 2006 at 10:31 am | Permalink

    Bravo! I am also in the habit of looking things up on Snopes and including instructions on how to use it for those emails pleading for the little girl or warning you of impending doom. It seems to work most of the time.

  2. Posted August 8, 2006 at 11:33 am | Permalink

    One sure fire way to get someone to stop is losing acess to your email account. Oh, but it hasn’t stopped…just the reader has. Hmmm. Lorelle, please take a moment to visit and maybe offer an insightful and valued opinion.

  3. Posted August 8, 2006 at 11:43 am | Permalink

    Kristine, you’ll have to be more specific. Opinion on what? 😉

    My email account filled up last week from all the jokes and war news junk. So it was time for my annual release of my “how to email Lorelle form letter”. I hope it helps others.

    Honestly, being nice gets you only so far in life. Being cute and making a point, and getting your way, gets you farther. 😉 A friend of mine calls it the “velvet hammer technique”.

  4. Posted August 8, 2006 at 11:49 am | Permalink

    tbirdonawire: Good for you. I’ve written about checking the facts behind the rumors before, so thanks for that reminder.

    I used to research the hoaxes, rumors and crap and email back the sender’s with the “correction”, but I found that this was a huge waste of time and didn’t help. And didn’t stop the junky emails. I highly recommend that if you are a forwarder, that YOU research things before you send them on to others, so you don’t get a backlash and perpetuate lies and evil.

    As for me, I’ve been doing this too long. Instant delete button. So don’t play email wolf with me. I have a very fast delete trigger finger.

  5. Posted August 8, 2006 at 11:58 am | Permalink

    Thanks for the tips and the sample email. I’m going to use this with my online students, some of whom forward jokes and requests for help in finding missing children. Maybe this will help them rethink their use of the forward button.

    I would add that people who let web sites send to their entire address book are a problem too. When someone I barely know invites me to their MySpace account, I know there’s something wrong.

  6. Catana
    Posted August 8, 2006 at 2:18 pm | Permalink

    You might considering adding one last line of defense, just for those who have to be hit over the head. Something along the lines of “In case you think my earlier email about forwarding jokes, rumors, etc. didn’t mean you, it did.”

    Your posts have been both entertaining and helpful. Just thought it was time to let you know. Thanks.

  7. Posted August 8, 2006 at 7:41 pm | Permalink

    Lorelle, I’ve used almost every methods of telling friends and relatives to stop forwarding junk mails to me; from polite to outrightly blunt stating that I won’t hesitate to block their email if they don’t heed my notice. Obviously the latter method was not well recieved and lost a few friends along the way.

    I felt really wicked and bad at first but upon looking back, I think I did the right thing. Those “junk-friends” were never meant for keep, after all they never sent me a birthday ecard or at the very least a Christmas card. =p

    I reckon the best method would to ignore their emails completely. And if they still didn’t get the hint after a year (exercising patient), they certainly deserved to be in the Junk email block list.

  8. Posted August 12, 2006 at 1:03 pm | Permalink

    Great post, Lorelle. I especially liked your point about crying wolf.

    Your form letter reminded me of the website Merlin Mann (43Folders) set up for people who send unwanted jokes, pictures, etc. He suggests emailing them the url:

    I’ve never used it because I don’t receive so much junk mail these days and because I thought it would come off as a little harsh for some of my contacts. Still, some might find it appropriate.

  9. Brenda Houk
    Posted August 21, 2006 at 9:56 am | Permalink

    For months I have been receiving email from an investment company in Canada. I have been able to find out that much about the spam. They arrive daily or more with a phony sender name “Will Whaley” for example and a stupid stupid subject line such as “ladder.” This week (to give you an example of a few) the names and subjects have been: Lambert Caldwell – tyrant, Watty Pacheo – venerable foolhardy, Sadie Collier – certify. I delete these without opening them as they are recognizable spam. At first, I tried replying hoping to get a live representative from the company who would delete our name. But the mail always came back with the note that the address wasn’t operitable. So, what is the point? Today I opened two of the emails and to make matters worse there is a 8-9 inch dialog tagged on to the bottom of the investment offer from someone that rambles through all sorts of personal thoughts (sick). How do you stop this?

  10. Posted August 21, 2006 at 10:48 am | Permalink

    Brenda: To stop this: NEVER REPLY.

    That’s it. There is nothing you can do. You replied, they know you exist, you are theirs forever.

    Depending upon your email service and software, you can specify email addresses and put a stop to their arrival but not the sending. Contacting the company, unless seriously legit, is a serious mistake. It doesn’t do any good. Good email software will filter them out and stop them from arriving in your inbox, either by deleting them automatically or sending them straight to trash. You’ll have to check the help files to find out how to do this. Some you can stop from any email address that comes from and sometimes it has to be the exact email address. Some will even filter from a specific IP address, but you have to dig into your software and email service to find out how to do that.

    While I love to hate Mozilla Thunderbird email program, it does have the ability to be “trained” to detect email spam. Over time, it establishes its own filters based upon what you consistently mark as spam and grabs it before you see it. It takes time though. It is fairly effective.

    I think that everyone who signs up for an Internet or email service should get their first email with instructions on how to handle email spam. NEVER RESPOND and NEVER OPEN unless you know the sender personally. If it says EBAY, AOL, or IRS, DELETE IT IMMEDIATELY.

    Good luck.

  11. mneave
    Posted April 21, 2011 at 11:32 pm | Permalink

    Thank you so much for writing this. I just sent it to relatives who just don’t get how much junk mail comes into my inbox daily. People who don’t work online have no clue what it’s like. I have trained outlook to automatically delete emails with certain words in the subject heading, address, or text. You can set all kinds of rules in outlook to block all kinds of emails. If you know how to use this feature you can block virtually anything garbage from getting through and disrupting your day : ) Great article!

2 Trackbacks/Pingbacks

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  2. […] but I’ve read that there’s no way to actually do this without hurting the person’s feelings.  Some people actually send out a form letter every year to remind people that their inbox is a precious resource […]

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