Why is my mail to this person not getting through?

Spam prevention measures have made getting email delivered more difficult. We'll look at ways to maximize the chances that email will make it through.


Why is my mail to this person not getting through?

Spam is a real problem. With some people getting literally hundreds of unwanted messages per day, a lot of internet service providers (as well as some individuals) are taking drastic steps to reduce the amount of junk mail in their inboxes. One of the largest is AOL.

The problem with many of these anti-spam measures is that they can block legitimate email as well. Assuming that your email to other places is working, it’s quite possible that that’s what you’re seeing.

Legitimate email typically gets erroneously blocked for a couple of reasons. Either the receiving system thinks your email looks too much like spam or the receiving system thinks that you’re sending it from an address that is or has been accused of being a spammer. Note that I said thinks. It’s the mistakes associated with that thinking that cause legitimate email to be mistaken for spam.

Spam content filters look at your email and assign points for various behaviors that are also associated with email that comes from a spammer. As soon as you collect too many points (where “too many” is up to the receiving system or the individual recipient), your email is flagged as spam. Some of the things to watch for in your email include:

  • Sexually explicit terms or phrases, such as “adults only,” “over 18,” and the like.
  • Certain drugs, again typically linked to sexual performance or characteristics.
  • SHOUTING. Spam filters will often consider shouting (or alternately SHOUTING or not) as sales copy.
  • Fake, inconsistent, or illegal return addresses. Or a “reply-to” address that does not match the “from” address. (If you don’t know how to even make that happen, don’t worry about it.)
  • HTML email. Spam filters consider HTML email as having a higher likelihood of being spam than plain text email.
  • Marketing terms. Because so much spam is in fact direct sales marketing, many filters now look for various words and phrases such as “satisfaction guaranteed,” “free offer,” or any of a host of sales wording and give that a higher probability of being spam.

It’s important to realize that no one is saying that any of those things in your email is bad or that any one of those things will cause your email to be blocked. The unfortunate reality of the situation is that the more that your email looks like spam, however innocuous, the more likely it is to be treated as spam.

The other common problem is email being blocked because it came from an IP address that’s been identified as somehow being related to spammers. If you’re not getting your email bounced back to you with some indication, this is both harder to detect and harder to resolve.

A quick test to make sure that any email can get through is to use another provider – a friend’s email account on a different service or even a free Hotmail or Yahoo account (although many places filter those addresses as well).

Finally, if you find that your address has been blacklisted or you still can’t determine what’s going on, it’s time to contact your ISP. They’re the “owners” of your IP address and are responsible for keeping spammers off of it and keeping it working for you.

And if they’re not interested it might be time for a new ISP.


  1. Tommy Steyer

    Dear Sirs.:Please be advised that when corresponding with my sister, who has Earthlink as a service provider, she can retrieve my E-Mail messages, but is unable to send them to me, as they are returned, despite the fact that I have not blocked them off my address book as “spam”.I do not know what is the best alternative, for all mail has been “unblocked”,yet she cannot get through. Her E-Mail is: hsteyer@iopener.net Thanks for your assistance in this matter, and hope to get a favorable response.Tommy Steyer.

  2. Leo

    When the messages are returned to her there should be some kind of diagnistic information included. If you can get that it would help diagnose the problem.

  3. JOsh

    When I log into my yahoo account, and i go into my mail it says “welcome Joshus” and it says i have 1 or how ever many e mail that i havent read, but as soon as i go into mail the whole site goes into a search site. See i cant get into my mail because of this im in serious need of help. How come I cant access my mail and why does the site go to the search site?

  4. sarah

    help please. i have been chatting with this lad we had both been sending each other im messages . then i sent my pic. and every time i send him an im it says hes off line. but i no he is on most vdays. im thinking he might have blocked me or changed his screen name could this be so?

  5. Linda

    I write to someone who has been a friend and he has to use a different name to get a message to me because he can’t send it from his other name. He says he’s blocked from my mail and I would like to know how to change that and get him unblocked. Thank You

  6. diane

    everytime i try and send my friends an email with an attachment it say sorry try your news configuration ,i can recieve them

  7. robbie

    my x is stalking me via email and im – i block her but she just makes a new screen name ..AOL9 ..aol say they cant do anything other than me block all unknown senders which is not an option as my business mail comes to that account ?? Please help .

  8. Gabriela Bahena

    When I try to go to my own email address it says that it wasn’t found. What’s that all about?

  9. Gabriela Bahena

    When I try to go to my own email address it says that it wasn’t found. What’s that all about?

  10. vanna fletcher

    Hello Leo,
    Why do my emails with a ‘Hotmail’address always get returned?
    My emails are returned stating….. the following address had ‘transient delivery errors’.

  11. Susan Deery


  12. Roslyn

    Hi could you please help me i have tried to respond to a very important e-mail how can i get my resoponce to the person.

    This is what i got but sender was rejected. Remote host said: 553 sorry, your mail from a host []

    How do I fix this thanks for your help

  13. Ian McGowan

    Hi Leo,

    My emails with a ‘aol’ address always get returned?

    ‘county999@aol.com’ is one of them…

    We had recently been black listed due to spam being sent from our domain without our knowledge, this has since been rectified and we have been removed from these black list, I wonder if we are on aol’s black list, how do we get off the list?

    Many Thanks

    Chris Laming

  14. Pam Pinzon

    When I reply to my mother’s email, she doesn’t receive my message. We both have Verizon accounts. My father receives his and they’re in the same house, just different email addresses. Any idea what’s happening?


  15. Gil

    Is there any way to verify if a hotmail e-mail is getting through or being blocked on another hotmail account?

    Thank you.

  16. jeremy

    if there is so much spam trouble, why dont isp’s start sending authentication ie your email program must log on the send an email.

  17. Adam Markey

    i can recieve mail from russia but not send. all other mail is getting through. please help me i am in love with a russian model!!!!

  18. Matt Hickman

    Some ISPs doing a lookup on the IP address of the SMTP server sending the mail, are not just checking for blacklisted addresses, but looking at the resolved DNS name. If it looks like something that might by dynamically assigned (e.g. user-0cet4xp.cable.mindspring.com)it will reject it as a potential bot.

    This causes small businesses with a DSL or cable IP connection that have their own SMTP server headaches. They either have to get their ISP to change how the IP address is resolved (for static addresses only) or relay mail through the ISP’s SMTP relay.

  19. Jan Lee

    I have been having trouble recieving email from my sister-in-law in New Mexico. She has an MSN email address, I am recieving email from Florida and Missouri. Should I contact my server or what?
    I have contacted Microsoft about the problem, since they are the providers. It is getting very frustrating. I am hoping you can help me. She thinks I have blocked her from my computer, and she mentioned something about a filter in the letter she sent me about this problem. Please can you help me?

  20. Leo A. Notenboom

    Hash: SHA1

    As outlined in the article, 9 times out of 10 it’s over-agressive spam

    I had this happen myself when someone sent me an email – their email
    service (MSN Hotmail) puts an ad at the bottom of every email, and the
    spam filter triggered on some of the words in that email.

    Yet another reason not to use a free email account that adds advertising
    to your emails.

    See if you can whitelist her somehow by adding to your address book or
    however else your ISP supports configuring your spam filters.

    Good luck!

    Version: GnuPG v1.4.6 (MingW32)


  21. Anthony Ashton

    I am having trouble with email. I cant figure out why. my fiance send me several emails from russia at my Aim email. I received nothing…
    Please help me with this.
    thank you!

  22. M. Sauer

    I have an email I rec’d from brother and wish to send to friends–internet explorer email refuses to send content of message, including to myself. people complain where is the message? how do I remedy this.

  23. sally sanchez

    I am unable to receive e-mails from [email address removed] or [email address removed]. They din’t bounce or show up as junk mail. Both accounts are usually used on the same computer. Any suggestions?


  24. S Strachan

    I have been emailing my husband’s work email and numerous colleugues at his work and all of a sudden – my emails are being returned undelivered saying Barracuda spam firewall has refused?? can you clarify.

    Sounds like something about your email looks like spam. There’s no way for me to know what, you’ll need to check with the people at the other end.

    – Leo
  25. Pat Anson

    I have yahoo and I get the message that I have mail but nothing appears. This morning It said I have 11 emails but only got 4. I know my friend is trying to send me mail and I don’t get it. Thanks

  26. Bruna

    I am trying for days now to send an email or reply to any of my friends I have received the emails from. There is no chance for my emails to get through! Once I click send, this is the notification that popps up in my screen: “Are you sure you want to nevigate away from this page? You haven’t sent this message. Are you sure you want to discard it? Press OK to continue or Cancel to stay on the current page.” Regardless of what I press (either Ok or Cancel) it will take me to the HTTP 403 (The webside declined to show this webpage) and my message never gets through!

  27. Jack Murphy

    I began hearing from people that they had not heard from me for a long time. I had been sending out jokes with up to 200 names in BCC. I remembered AOL kickbacks mentioning the reason being headers with more than 32kb in size. My 200 names were in groups of various size. I measured a test email with 85 names in my largest group and found [in properties, and before I put any text in] that the 85 names were 25.5 kb in size. I did my emails in three bunches with the 85 by itself, and the rest in two other emails. They all go trough now with out a probllem. Size was my problem.

  28. Bola Billyrose

    I’d been sending mails via my phone for months before I discovered that there were not really through and those ones sent to me by friends via phone I couldn’t get either and I’m still facing the problem now! You people should do something fast about it.

  29. Mark

    I see a few comments about Hotmail rejecting their emails. I went through that a couple of times. Hotmail has overly aggressive spam filters and sometimes blacklist entire email companies if one their client sends spam to Hotmail clients. My suggestion switch from Hotmail to GMail, which incidentally had quite good spam filtering.

  30. joie moore

    hte person has a yahoo.com account,my emails still don’t get through to her, really getting to be apain

  31. Esley Loftis

    I keep getting a daemon message that they could
    not deliver my message because they had tried
    past their time limit. I am on Yahoo.com and I
    am emailing {email removed}. She does
    work for a doctor and sometime works at home.
    Sometimes I get thru. Is their server down or what is going on?

  32. Jon J.

    Comcast (one example) will block email as spam based on the criteria Leo laid out. However, they don’t send anything back to the sender so the sender has no way of knowing whether the email is delivered. Email volume seems to be one of their triggers. Very frustrating when you are working on a project with someone.

  33. Stephen J Gennuso

    lately all forwarded main to hot mail & aol people comes back saying it cannot be delivered but i receive e mail from them. i have to fax them

  34. Adrienne Daniel France

    I have an account with yahoo since 2006 I cant understand why my E-mail don’t go through please help me

    • Connie Delaney

      Hi Adrienne,
      The place to ask Leo a question is at this link: http://askleo.com/ask-leo/

      To get an answer you will need to be a lot more specific. Include things like what kind of a computer you are using, what browser. Do the emails get to some people and not others? How do you know they are not getting through, and what error messages you get.

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