Where could that message be?

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The possible ‘road-blocks’ between you and an email message.

There’s a very real possibility that a message you send won’t reach the intended destination. Email delivery isn’t guaranteed and these days there are plenty of blocks between sender and recipient.

Every week we hear from readers who are either sending or trying to receive messages but they are not arriving. Sometimes these problems can raise tempers, especially with people who wrongly believe that all emails sent are always delivered.

Many of those blocks are over-zealous anti-spam measures, with companies and ISP’s focus on eliminating spam they can overlook the very real problem of stopping legitimate messages (known as ‘false positives’).

Those problems are made worse when the messages are just deleted with no notice to either sender or receiver. Not only does this add to the aggravation but the lack of notice makes it almost impossible to track down the culprit.

Outgoing filter

Some companies have filters on outgoing messages, most likely these traps are because of concerns about sexual or other harassment.

The filters will stop messages with what are considered ‘bad’ words.

Incoming filter at ISP / Company

The biggest ‘hidden’ email block is at the receiving company, Internet provider or email host.

Most email services will have some type of spam filter running. Whether they disclose that to their customers or users is another matter. Often Internet service providers will tell customers that there’s no spam filter in place – especially if they are asked about ‘missing’ messages.

Hopefully these filters are set to remove just the most obvious spam and let through most messages for your own filters to handle but too often the filters are over-zealous and remove messages you want to see.


For these email filters the only solution is to work around them. Try sending the message to or from a totally separate email account. This is where a Gmail, Hotmail or Yahoo Mail account comes in handy.

Your Spam filter

Most email programs have some type of spam filter – either a simple one (based on single words or senders address) or a complex ‘Bayesian’ filter.

Either way, messages go straight to the ‘Junk E-mail’ or similar folder.

A common mistake is to make the spam checking quite severe and overlook the possibility that a message you want has been trapped. For example, Microsoft Outlook’s highest setting (Actions | Junk E-mail | Junk E-mail options) is ‘Safe Lists only’ which sounds great but it assumes that your Contacts and ‘Safe Recipients’ list is absolutely up-to-date. A message will be considered as spam from an overlooked person/company or one with a new name or domain.

Accidental deletion

Most of us start the day by selecting messages to delete, either spam or just messages we don’t want to bother with. Accidentally deleting a message is all too easy, either the name or subject line is unexpected or you just click the wrong place.

It’s a good idea to check your ‘Deleted Items’ folder for messages you’re looking for and not immediately clear out that folder.


Always keep past deleted or junk email messages for a few weeks so you can check them for ‘missing’ messages.

Human error

Don’t forget the simple possibility of human error, a typing error or sending to an ‘old’ unmonitored address instead of the current address for that person.

Some people try to ‘fix’ their spam problem by changing email address, that works for a while but adds hassle for all the people and companies you correspond with.

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