A little known way to manage your email via sub-addressing

Summary: Learn how to manage your email more efficiently by using email sub-addressing via +tag qualifiers when subscribing to mailing lists or registering to new sites

I like to spend as little time in email as humanly possible. I like efficiency. But I still want to make sure I get to read all the emails that really matter and not waste time on emails I don't need to be acted on immediately.

Because of this, I'm a heavy user of filters in email. I filter emails like newsletters and mailing lists away from my Inbox automatically, so they don't interfere with the important emails, and I can then go and read them when I have the time.

For the longest time I used the senders email or subjects to filter stuff. I still do this, but only a few months ago I found a new way to filter email. I needed to find a better way to filter emails, because over the years I've ended up subscribing to hundreds of newsletters and mailings lists, in addition to the tens of sites and forums I've registered in.

Using sub-addressing to filter and protect your email

The secret trick of mine is using sub-addressing by adding +tag qualifier to the email addresses I use for subscriptions and registrations. By using +tag qualifiers for sub-addressing, I've managed to lower the number of filters in my GMail A LOT and make the whole thing more manageable at the same time.

With sub-addressing and filtering I can make sure my Inbox stays clean of clutter as the emails can be automatically filtered and I'm also protected from spam, as I can immediately see if I start to get spammed from a site based on the +tag I used when I registered or subscribed.

If you just went ??? when I talked about +tag qualifiers and sub-addressing, don't worry - I didn't now this stuff couple of months ago either - and I'll give you the quick intro on the subject right now...

What is email sub-addressing?

With email being used since the 1980's, you'd think that we know everything about it. Well, we probably do, but this is something that I only learned this year - And I've been around computers for 25 years, from which a good portion working in the industry!

I learned only recently that you can effectively sub-address your emails by adding +tag qualifier to your email. Or I might have known it, but never got around into using it. Anyway...

  • You can add any tag to your email by injecting +tag after the name before the @-sign, e.g. firstname.lastname+tag@gmail.com (before the @ is the local part of the email address).
  • All these emails are still delivered to "firstname.lastname@gmail.com", and you can use the +tag to filter the emails!
  • You can use +tag qualifiers to effectively create infinite email sub-addresses.


One more time: If your email address is firstname.lastname@gmail.com, you can add a tag like firstname.lastname+tag@gmail.com. You can then use the +tag sub-address to filter and monitor that email address.

For me, the main use of sub-addresses is filtering. For spam protection, sub-addressing via +tag qualifiers are not disposable email addresses, but at least I'll know where the spam originated from if I see a +tag on the email.

Source: E-mail address, Wikipedia.

Services that support email sub-addressing

GMail supports sub-addressing with plus (+). GMail is not the only mail service that supports sub-addressing via +tag qualifiers, but GMail is the one I use just because it works do damn well.

Some mail servers violate the RFC 5322, and the recommendations in RFC 3696, by refusing to send mail if the local-part of the address contains the plus sign (+). - Wikipedia

You can test if +tag qualifiers work for you by sending a test email to yourself and add +tag to your email.

Also, some mail systems support sub-addressing via hyphen (-) instead of plus sign, so ask your email provider or their documentation which you should be using. But as said, with GMail it's the plus (+)

How to take advantage of email sub-addressing in GMail

  • Use generic +tag to filter mails from mailing lists you subscribe to
  • Use +tag for each newsletter you subscribe to
  • Use +tag for each site your register on
  • Use different +tags in the from-address for the emails you send, e.g. add +tag to your newsletter from-address, so you'll spot the emails send as a reply to your newsletter or mail to a mailing list.

Use the +tags to filter your email, e.g. keep low-priority mails like newsletters out of the Inbox automatically.

For example, if you subscribe to this blog via email, you could add tag like +subscriptions or +newsletters to your email after the name, but before the @-sign.

Or you could use the blogs name or the newsletter owners name, and add tag like +zemalf or +anttislist to the email.

You can also add tags to all sites you've registered in, like Twitter, different forums, etc.

I use combination of these, individual tags for some sites and lists, and generic tags, like "+lowpriority" for bulk newsletters and mailing lists I sign to.

I have then proceeded into build filters around the tags as I like (to either highlight important content or process lower priority mails automatically)

Start using email sub-addressing right now!

  • From this moment on, use sub-addressing and the +tags on emails you use for each newsletter and for each site your register in.
  • Use the +tags to both filter your email for maximum productivity and also to protect yourself from getting spammed into the email address you used to a certain site (spammers aren't smart enough to remove the +tags)

Also note that for the better mailing list services, like AWeber, you can edit your email address even after you have subscribed, so you can use this trick for existing subscriptions as well.

Just take a look at the links at the bottom of the newsletters that say something other than just "unsubscribe", e.g. "change subscriber options" or "edit your subscription".

And of course, you can go and edit the email address on the services you are already registered in, like forums, social media sites, etc.


  • Sub-addressing with +tag qualifiers is a great way to filter your emails
  • You can create an email sub-address by injecting +tag before the @-sign
  • The plus (+) works in GMail and some other email services, test it your by sending yourself an email and add +tag qualifier to the email (e.g. firstname.lastname+test@example.com)

What do you think? Did you know about email sub-addressing before your read this post? How have you used it, or how you plan to use it?

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