Free at Last!
How to unsubscribe from
(and subscribe to) Internet mailing lists
Types of lists
Mailing lists are processed by software designed for that purpose.
Administrative requests are sent to the list server process.
Mail to people on the list is sent to one account on a server
that is then re-sent to all the people on that list. Examples
of the commands to unsubscribe or subscribe to lists using common
types of list processing software are listed below. Do not chat
when you send these requests. List processors are not sentient
entities and will not appreciate it. Other commands than these
may also work. If you don't know the type of list, send
all four. It still taxes the net less than sending administrative
requests to the list subscribers.
If the address to which you want to subscribe begins with
You send a message to the listproc address (as provided in the
list of mailing lists), you leave the subject line blank (this
is important) and the content of the message should read
subscribe listname Firstname Lastname
So, for example, were Franz Bibfeldt to subscribe to the Tillich-Bonhoeffer list,
he would write:-
subscribe dbpt-l Franz Bibfeldt
and send it to
Franz is then subscribed under the address from which he sent the email. He could expect to receive confirmation of his subscription to the list and other details (e.g., of how to contribute and how to unsubscribe). Ideally, he would save this information for when he wanted to unsubscribe.
You send a message to the listserv address (as provided in the
list of mailing lists), you leave the subject line blank and the content
of the message should read
subscribe listname Firstname Lastname
So, for example, if Soren Kierkegaard were to subscribe to the list for New
Religious Movements, he would send this message:-
subscribe nurel-l Soren Kierkegaard
Again, he could expect to receive confirmation of his subscription to the list
and other details (e.g., of how to contribute and how to unsubscribe). He would
save this information for when he wanted to unsubscribe.
To join a mailbase list write to:-
with the message:-
join listname Firstname Lastname
join feminist-theology Regina Olson
On subscription, she would receive details of how to send messages to the
To subscribe to a Majordomo list of the form:-
You should write to the relevant address with the message:-
subscribe <listname> your-e-mail-address
So, were Franz Bibfeldt to subscribe to the Psychology of Religion list, he would write:-
subscribe psyrel-l email@example.com
He would receive subscription confirmation
and further details about the list.
Other addresses (such as
listname-owner@) are addresses to which
you have to write to a real person in order to ask to join. In this case,
use conversational English to request subscription of a real person.
These -request lists may be moderated (Under the right circumstances,
this results in a higher quality of discussion. It will definitely limit
the volume of mail coming through the list, as one person will have to read everything).
What if I don't know the type of software that is running the list
Try them all. The wrong form will bounce.
Netiquette - Manners are important!
Newbies sometimes seem to think that listowners and the web are
employees of their local service provider. They make their needs
known on a continuum from demands to firm requests, as if the listowner will lose her job if she doesn't comply. Listowners are unpaid and usually serve at listowners because of an interest in the subject matter and because no one else wanted the job. Know that going into it.
The most important thing to know about list manners is that you must
not post administrative requests,
such as subscribe and unsubscribe, to Internet mailing
lists. Even polite ones. Each post to an Internet mailing
list is re-sent to all its subscribers. This can number in
the thousands. In so doing, you not only advertise to the
global community that you haven't a clue about Internet
mailing lists but people have to wonder about your resourcefulness,
your character, and possibly your parents' marital status.
Moreover, you inconvenience others unnecessarily,
tax servers all over the world, waste bandwidth, and
inspire "me, too!" thinkers to follow you into the dark
forest of listserv madness. In a word, do not just hit
reply to unsubscribe.
Mores are unwritten codes. Sometimes they are unspoken. The underlying mores of the Internet require that you first do everything possible to solve a problem yourself before asking for help. In UNIX parlance, this is referred to as RTFM (M stands for manual. I leave the rest to your imagination. As you have tried to solve the problem yourself by coming here, so I will do my best to give you the help you need.
I may have sent you this URL. If I did, you probably posted an administrative request to a list to which I subscribe, or that I own. I own, or co-own, the following lists: firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, and firstname.lastname@example.org so if you have difficulty with these directions, just write to me. Please do not ask me to unsubscribe you without first attempting to unsubscribe yourself. I am a grad student and work full-time and I only mother Ursula.
Finally, if you subscribe a list that I administer, I require that you use your real name when posting to the list. Almost any email address is acceptable, but I refuse to post messages from entities with such names as "StudMuffin666@aol.com" on my lists. Yes, this is
When all else fails
You can get help from a real person. Actually, at least two real people. First, you can send mail to list-owner. If you check the headers on your unwanted list email, there is often an Errors to: field. That is your list owner. It is
often a name such as email@example.com.
You can write to the owner and beg for help. Tell the full story.
List owners sometimes have lives. Postmasters, on the other
hand, do not. If you know where the list originates, you can always
write to firstname.lastname@example.org. Internic requires
that every domain have a postmaster so your mail will go somewhere.
You probably won't get an immediate response. Welcome to the
Internet. You are paying your dues.
You send an email to majordomo@whatever the domain is. For example,
Franz sends an email to email@example.com saying:
unsubscribe spirit-l firstname.lastname@example.org
You send an email to listserv@whatever the domain is. For example,
Franz sends an email to email@example.com saying:
unsubscribe aril-l firstname.lastname@example.org
You send an email to listproc@whatever the domain is from the address
you are subscribed under. This part is important:
Leave the subject line blank.
Franz sends an email to email@example.com saying with a return address of
firstname.lastname@example.org that says:
You send an email to mailbase@whatever the domain is. For example,
Franz sends an email to email@example.com saying:
leave feminist-theology firstname.lastname@example.org
You have to unsubscribe the exact name you are unsubscribed under
or you will hear about it from the list server. For example, if
Franz is subscribed under email@example.com and sends a message
there is a possibility that the list processing software will
object and tell him that he is not subscribed. Some list software is smart
enough to figure this out (It's called mungedomain.
Most isn't. Some lists will allow
you to send a rev listname for listserv and listproc or
who listname for majordomo. The list administrator might
have disabled the feature to protect subscribers' privacy however. In that case,
you are back to writing the listowner or postmaster.
You don't know the domain where the list is coming from.
For example, aril-l is sent from ucsbvm.ucsb.edu. Truncating
the domain name to ucsb.edu will bounce your message (on the day
I write this. The Internet is nothing if not dynamic). Turn on
"long headers" in your email software and you will not only see
where your mail come from but the path it took to get there. If
you are using the Eudora mail program, chose the "Blah Blah Blah" icon.
You're getting mail but the list server tells you that you
aren't subscribed and you've tried the solutions under
First Snag. Unsubscribe using every email
address you've ever had in both long and short forms. Then
write the listowner, postmaster, and your own help disk.
Famous list problems and solutions
Problem: Too existential - Can't unsub from
firstname.lastname@example.org using directions
Solution: Send unsub request to
email@example.com instead of to
firstname.lastname@example.org,which I believe is the mailbox of a real person who may or may not check her mail.
Try leaving the subject line blank. If you find
yourself existentially trapped on the kierkegaard list,
your situation. Please don't spam the list with
Can't unsub from feminist theology list using
leave feminist-theology email@example.com
Problem: Can't unsubscribe from
firstname.lastname@example.org doesn't work, write the listowner and I will save you within a day or two. Don't spam the list.
Personal help and feedback
If you find other little tricks about various lists
and would like to add them here to save your fellow
Internet travelers, send me
And if you still can't unsubscribe and you're desperate,
write to me and I'll try to help.
P.S. A Note About Franz
Several people have asked me who is Franz Bibfeldt. According to University of Chicago Magazine, Franz is a theologian known to generations of scholars (and one Playmate of the Year), Franz Bibfeldt has led a life that-to paraphrase Twain-has been greatly exaggerated.. Find out more about Franz Bibfeldt.
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