Gray matter: Controlling graymail & other email clutter

We all know what spam email is – the email we get from people we don’t know and have never communicated with. Graymail is the email we receive from subscriptions that we actively signed up for at one time or another, so they are not spam, yet we typically delete them without reading them. These may be mail from companies with whom you’ve done business in the past, or maybe you signed up for a newsletter or provided an email address to download a whitepaper. The problem is that the emails that fall into the gray area between wanted correspondence and spam clutter your email inbox. Beyond being a nuisance, they may also cause you to miss important emails or take valuable time to manage.

The challenge is that, unlike real spam, you can’t just mark it as junk and have your anti-spam software block the sender because you may want to get some of the email that comes from that source. 

We suggest a multi-pronged approach to handling graymail:

  • Lessen the amount of graymail you receive by avoiding being added to new lists and by unsubscribing to graymails you no longer want to receive, and
  • Use tools to sort those emails so they don’t clutter your primary inbox and/or are easily distinguished from your important emails.

Prevent unwanted graymails

  • When you give your email address to a web site, check to make sure the “opt in” box is not checked. Often, the box is already checked for you so you automatically opt in to a host of email solicitations. Uncheck the box to prevent future emails beyond the necessary correspondence.
  • Don’t put your email address on your website as bots will scour sites just to collect email addresses. If you do include an email, be sure to spell them out using “(at)” instead of “@” and “dot com” instead of “.com.”
  • Create a separate email address for online transactions.

Unsubscribe to email you no longer want to receive

Unsubscribing from email subscriptions is the most tried and true way to permanently limit the amount of graymail you receive. Searching “unsubscribe” in your inbox should pull up any email where the word is within. It may take a bit of time, however, it will save you much more in the end.

Using email organization tools

Almost all email solutions, including Outlook and Gmail, support sorting email into folders. In most email solutions, you can set up rules so that messages from particular senders or with specific keywords in the subject lines will go into designated folders. For instance, Outlook 365 offers the “Clutter” feature to help organize your inbox, and Gmail offers its “Priority Inbox” which attempts to automatically identify your important incoming messages and separates them out from everything else.

There are more aggressive tools, such as McAfee SaaS Email Protection, that Sinu can help you set up to help manage graymail. However, most create filters company-wide and do not allow for as much individual control as the options listed above. Contact us if you have any questions about how to handle spam, graymail, or need other email management tools.