How to use Email Subject Key Codes

The free, simple, effective Anti-Spam Solution
No special software - Just a code in the Subject line
Subject: ...

EmailCode.Org  - a nonprofit educational initiative
to improve the usefulness of electronic mail

The Problem: Electronic mail is too often used by marketers who send unsolicited "spam" which makes it harder to find important email messages.  We can use products like Norton AntiSpam, and set up email Rules.  But there are so many new possibilities of text that we want to filter out. There is the danger of filtering out an important contact's email.  Spammers have learned to cleverly disguise the email content to seem like a legitimate correspondence from a friend, or special tricks to bypass spam checking software.

New laws may help, such as the Can-Spam Act of 2003, but they are difficult to enforce.  Spammers often use aliases and others' hardware, so it is hard to identify the true culprit.  Innocent people could endure prosecution.  Spammers often use off-shore spam shelters, making extradition difficult.  Countries who harbor spammers, including some large nations, may be as unresponsive to political pressure on spam as they are to copyright, and counter-terrorism efforts.  Blocking out the domains of countries who do not have the ability to enforce spam laws, hurts international trade, and further isolates developing countries.  Spammers have even set up on oil rigs subject to no international law.  They will always find a way to send spam.

So we need a new approach and concept.  We need to do something different to get a different result.  Only a new seed can yield a new crop.  Some key element has been missing, to make email effective, and free from abuse...a Key Code, of course.  It's like we left our doors wide open, then complain to the police about strangers coming in, and we never thought to put a lock on our door.

The Solution: We want to get emails from our clients and associates. We can add your address to our Include List, a very effective anti-spam technique that accepts only emails from a special address list.  But we may not yet have had the opportunity to do so.  Or we may need to receive emails from new customers.  So, we can easily specify Key Words in the Subject line that indicate an important message.  This acts as a "Priority Delivery" code, to make your email message go to the top of the Inbox folder.

When prehistoric man invented doors, anyone could open them, so they invented the lock to keep intruders out.  When they first invented cars, anyone could drive them off, so Charles Kettering invented the ignition key.  When Windows first came out, anyone could access it by pressing escape , so Microsoft added passwords.  With the invention of email, we just need a key combination.


How it works:  Simply include our Email Key Code, presently the number , anywhere in the Subject line..  For example:

Note how  Joe begins the Subject with the recipient's Email Key Code, followed by his subject.  It is on the left side of the Subject, for easy sorting by the recipient.  Note also that Joe includes his current Email Key Code for the recipient to use for a reply message.  You can collect Email Key Codes in your email Address Book for your contacts.

Note also that Joe thinks ahead.  He includes his Email Key Code "7295" in the Subject.  So when Rick responds, it will go to the top of Joe's email in box.  Any future replies will automatically have these codes included in the Subject line.  So no emails get lost in the spam.

Our email program, such as Microsoft Outlook, will look for that code, and make sure it goes to the main In box.  This will "unlock" and provide access our In box, and ensure your email is found.  It will find the "2468" anywhere in the Subject, whether it is:

    2468 - Database conversion
    2468: Data conversion
    2468 Data conversion
    Database conversion 2486
    Database 2468 conversion
    Database conversion (2468)
    Database conversion [2468]

If you begin with the Key Code, that will make it easier for the recipient to sort by the Subject line.  If you are sending an email to several individuals, you can include all their Email Key Codes in any order.  For example:

Subject: Thanks    [2468 3067 850 3067]
Thanks for the excellent job.  I'll call if we have any questions.

Joe Smith
800-123-4568 Ext. 10
Email Key Code: 7295

Most people leave their in boxes open to all.  But by using the Email Key codes, we can reduce spam because spammers will not know which key code to include for the people on their list.  It is an easy technique, which does not require legislation.  It does not require any new software. It will work whether you send a message  from your business account or personal email account.  It's free, and easy to do.

There should be two elements we give to those we want messages from - the Email Address, and Key Code.  Just like a physical address, we give out our street number and name, but only give keys to certain people.  Similarly, we may give someone our main work phone number, but only give out our direct extension number to a select few.  By using this "principle of the second element" we can avert spam.  

Too often, spammers misuse the "High Priority" flag that most email systems provide.  An Email Key Code provides a "Special Delivery" code that spammers cannot guess.  An email with an EKC gets the recipient's attention, as a certified or overnight mail letter does, to distinguish it from ordinary mail.

Your Email Address is Your Door
Your Code is the Key
Don't Leave Your Door Open to Spammers

Spam "prevention" programs work by examining email for spam-like content, may sometimes eliminate a legitimate email.  Computer programs don't yet really understand English.  They can only do statistical comparisons of word sequences.  Software can make mistakes.  Some times an email with the subject "URGENT!!!" might really be urgent. 

You'll need to scan through your voluminous "spam" folder to see if there are any valid emails that slipped through the cracks.  What if your best customer uses, shall we say, "colorful language" and you don't want his email to be filtered out?

The approach of finding what email you don't want is flawed.  There are just too many possibilities, almost infinite, and too much room for error.  The best approach is to simply specify what you do want in your email.  The Email Key Code provides a single word that your email program has to look for, instead huge number of words or addresses that the program thinks you don't want.

Using an Email Key Code makes more effective use of a computer's ability to quickly search for character sequences.  You will never lose important emails, as long as they have the code.  To use this easy technique, just pick any sequence of 3 or 4 numbers or letters that would be uncommon in a subject line.  

How to Choose Your Own Key Code

Think of a four character code number, preferably not a four letter word often found in email subjects.

These won't work Good examples

Your Code does not have to be a top secret code - only reasonably secret from the spammers.  Even if you post your Email Key Code on the World Wide Web, it would be far too time consuming for spammers to look up everyone's current code.  Their focus is on volume, sending millions of emails, hoping for a 1% response.  The technology does not yet exist for automatic email search robots to figure out which email address on a web page goes with which Key Code.  They aren't even looking yet.

Spammers cannot take the time to look up your Key Code.  They want to email to thousands of people they don't know.  Only someone who is trying to contact you in particular, with something you might like, will take the minute or two to look up your Key Code.  Spammers can't do this.  They want to plug in a list of names, press send, and go on to other things. 

It would take spammers over 16 hours of very tedious work to look up the current Key Codes for even a small mailing of 1000 email addresses (1000 minutes/60 minutes).   If that email blast resulted in one sale, for an average profit of $10, they made under $1/hour - about 62 cents.  It is better to get a real job, even at minimum wage.

That's assuming all Key Codes are posted in an easy-to-find site, such as the same web site as the email domain, which they may not be.   It also assumes spammers can find it within an average of 1 minute.  Some people may not post them at all.  Now we have made spamming a 62 cents per hour, tedious occupation.  No email address lists could guarantee delivery without the Code.  No one would bother.  Spammers would have to get a real job.

To make it even harder for email address search robots, create a graphic image of your Key Code.  Note how we do this on this page.  Web search robots cannot read graphic images, only typed characters.  Making a graphic also makes it easy for you to change your current EKC by changing just one GIF file.  You can create a GIF file with the free Paint program included with Microsoft Windows.

Key Codes are reliable.   They gives the "guard at the door" something definite and reliable to go by, only allowing certain messages to come in with the proper "password."   You wouldn't tell a guard "Just decide as best you can who should come in."   How should he know?  A suspicious looking person might be your best friend.  Or a well dressed person might be a spammer.  This is what anti-spam software is asked to attempt to determine.  You should simply tell the guard to only let people in who have a proper pass that you have given out.  The Key Code is that pass.  That is something computer email software can easily determine.

Key Codes are adaptable.  People are reluctant to, and cannot easily change their email addresses.  But they can easily change their Key Code at any time, making it impossible for spammers. 

This adds a relative (easily changed) component to your absolute (unchanging) email address.  Even if spammers attempt to include key codes in their subjects, by using 4 digits, you have made it 9999 times more difficult for them.  The more digits, the harder it is for the spammer to guess.  With a 4 character code, combining 10 digits and 26 alphabetical letters, you have made it over 1.6 million times more difficult for them to send you spam. 

How To Receive Email
Using Your Subject Codes

You can set up many popular email programs to easily use Email Key Codes. 

1. Set up a New Folder, to contain email that contains your email acceptance code.

2. Look for their "Email Rules":feature, and set up a rule whereby email with your code will go in to that folder.  All other email will accumulate as normally in the In box.   You can check your "Inbox OK" folder for accepted mail.

Email program Steps
outlook.jpg (1020 bytes)
Microsoft Outlook
Rules Wizard...
Check email messages when they arrive
with specific words in the subject
2468, Add, OK
Move it to the specified folder
"Inbox OK"

Microsoft Outlook Express
Message Rules
Check email messages when they arrive
with specific words in the subject
2468, Add, OK
Move it to the specified folder
"Inbox OK"

Match: Incoming
Header: Subject
ACT! Email  


If you do not have a Rules feature, almost every email program at least has a key word search feature.  They all have a sort by Subject feature.  So the recipient could limit the display to those email messages containing "2468" for example. 

You can also use Email Key Codes to help track the effectiveness of your advertising.  For example, if you list the code 1234 in an ad in the Washington Post, you will know that any email inquiries you receive are in response to that advertisement.

Adding an Email Key Code may add unwanted characters to the left side of your Subject lines.   But it is far better than the alternative, an In box filled with time wasting spam.  It may take a while to catch on and become a common practice.  Email software manufacturers may some day include  features to make using Key Codes more convenient, such as:

You may have noticed that Customer Support emails often have a Key Code, so they can track the support cases for each customer.  They often appear in the Subject with brackets, enclosing a serial number.  They use this number to make sure each email is responded to, until the case is closed.  You can use the same concept, by making up your own email subject code.

The Email Key Code could also be in the Body of the email.  This way you can include it in your automatic Signature, and it will not "clutter" your Subject line.  Most email programs can scan for content in either the Subject or the body of the Message.   When replying, copy  the message, and it will automatically contain the code for the recipient.  However, it takes a bit longer to search the whole message.  So we decided on the Subject line.

In the early days of the Internet, you could cut down on spam by only giving your email address out to those you knew, or wanted to have contact with.  But spammers have somehow found your email address, and promulgated it on marketing CDs.  Soon you were getting emails from all sorts of strangers.  So, we just need to require a bit more information they don't have, or would have spend time to get, in order to get access to your email in box - the Email Key Code.

Once spammers get a hold of your email address, there is not much we can do about it.  It is sold, and resold to other spammers.  But they cannot easily get a hold of your current Email Key priority code.  And even if they do, you can easily change it on them.

This way you don't have to change your email address to avoid spam.  Just change your Email Key Code about once a year, or so.  This should be enough, even if spammers figure out how to get around this technique.  You will always be able to change your code faster than they can cost-effectively find it out. 

For those you have frequent contact with, such as business associates, or family, of course you can simply add them to your Address Book to accept their mail, with or without Email Key Codes.  But this technique allows new people to email you, who are willing to take the time to find your code on your web site.  These are people who would have a legitimate need to email you, and those you would probably want to respond to.

Will it require extra work?  Unfortunately a bit more time.  But this is more than what spammers are willing to do.  You may have to look up your recipient's current Key Code, if it has been a while since your last correspondence.  But this is less time than the time we have to waste dealing with spam.  We will end up saving much more time in the long run.  Instead of spending time looking at what you don't want, you can use less time looking up what you do want.

Help spread the knowledge of how to use this technique, and help cut down on spam, which has been slowing down the Internet.   All you need to do, when you tell someone your email address, is to also give your Key Code.  Some day everyone will know to put the code in the Subject line, and spam will be a thing of the past.  If everyone used Email Codes, spammers would be out of business. Productivity will soar when spammers are locked out.

We look forward to receiving your email messages. Thank you.

How To Send Email
Using Subject Codes

  1. Go to
    or the web site for the person you want to write.
    Most of the time, their web site name is the same as their email address

  2. Look up the person's email address that you want to write
    It may take a minute to do, but that's a minute too much for spammers.

  3. Include the code in the Subject line of your email
    Your email will now receive priority attention in their email in box.


For example, here are the
Current Email Key Codes for C I Corporation

Name Email Address Subject: Email Key Code
General mail box
Rick Shaddock
Office Manager
Oksana Shaddock
George Soutar
Gerard Pereira
Gabriel Anwar
Nancy Landreville
Nick Baranov

By listing the Email Key Codes for your organization, in a folder such as
you allow legitimate senders to look up the codes, quickly and easily. 
But this process would be too time consuming for spammers
who want to send out thousands of emails a minute.


If you would like to post your current Email Key Code
in graphic form here
please send us your email address and code to
(but donations are not turned down)


This may become a popular reference page
for anyone looking up someone's Email Key Code.
So if you would like to put your banner here
Please write

C I Corporation
800-319-3190 2468

Use our Email Key Code in the Subject:
wpe17.jpg (7539 bytes)


Other Anti Spam Techniques

Encrypt Email Addresses on the Web
Puts email addresses in to ASCII codes

Norton AntiSpam
Searches for spam-like content

iMail Processing Rules
Searches for exclusive or inclusive content

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