I currently have some basic filters in Gmail, but the other day I heard someone mention you could use a plus sign in your address to filter incoming email?

Can someone elaborate?


3 Answers 3


This is your regular email address:

[email protected]

This is your email with plus addressing:

[email protected]

When you create a filter, just filter for messages sent To the one with the particular word after the plus (+) sign.

So your filter will look like this:

To: [email protected]

Now you can just hand out that email address with the plus and seed word and any incoming mail sent to that will be filtered however you want to deal with it.


The other methods suggested may not catch all email sent to that address; that is, sometimes your email will not be in the To: field, as when the email is sent to a mailing list to which you are subscribed.

Making the Address

First, to take advantage of the plus sign you mention, append the desired text to the first part of your email address. If your email is [email protected] and you're signing up for the New York Times Online, you might use the address [email protected]. Email sent to this address will also appear in your regular inbox, and it will not be sent to anyone else -- anything after the + operator is ignored by Gmail.

If you want to get even trickier, you can use periods within the address at any position except the first letter before the @ symbol, and these will also be ignored (as another commenter notes). E.g., you could use [email protected] and email to that address would be sent directly to [email protected].

Setting up the Filter

Now, to filter incoming mail you'll use the "Filters" feature of Gmail. To create a new filter, use the link beside the search box at the top of the page or go to your settings and click the "Filters" tab.

To make sure all relevant emails are caught, we can take advantage of the fact that the Has the words: field accepts search operators.

  1. Leaving the other fields blank, put the following text in the `Has the words:` box:

    {(to:[email protected]) (deliveredto:[email protected])}

    The inner parenthesis mean that the field is optional (e.g., the mail can be to: this address OR it can be deliveredto: this address).

  2. Click the Next Step >> button. Choose what you want to do with email sent to this address; for example, select "Apply the label:" and create a label to apply to all email sent there.

  3. Click the relevant check box if you'd like to apply the filter to emails that already fall into that category (if applicable); otherwise, just click the Create Filter button.

Enjoy your newfound powers.

Footnote: The + operator is NOT available for all email providers. It is a special feature of Gmail. Only use it with Gmail accounts unless you confirm that it works with another provider. However, people can send mail to this type of account from any email address.

See also:

  • 1
    The + operator is not specific to Gmail. It's in one of the RFCs that covers Gmail and existed long before Google, much less Gmail. (Heck, I used to use it extensively in my filters in Pegasus mail.) It's just that the other big webmail providers didn't allow it in the past.
    – ale
    Commented Apr 26, 2011 at 19:52
  • 2
    @AlEverett The protocols in the e-mail RFCs do not treat + as a subaddress operator or any kind of separator. It is an ordinary character, and is treated as part of the mailbox name. The system which performs final delivery is free to treat + specially: Gmail does this, and if you run your own mail system using Sendmail or one of its descendants you can do the same yourself. The only RFC which mentions + is RFC 3598, a proposed extension to the Sieve language. RFC 3598 notes that + is the typical subaddress character but does not in any way change the e-mail protocols.
    – MetaEd
    Commented Jun 26, 2012 at 15:51
  • ^shrug^ Be that as it may, I've been using + as a subaddress operator for years. Long before Google existed, much less Gmail. It used to be fairly standard, but has apparently become even less popular. Regardless, this isn't the venue for this; comments on Stack Exchanges sites are to improve posts.
    – ale
    Commented Jun 26, 2012 at 15:53

You can provide to other sites a modified version of your email address, like so:

[email protected] -> [email protected]

So if a site you provided a modified email address to sends you a message, you can set up a filter on the to field of the message to check for the sitename bit. You can create a filter for each variation you create. It's surprising, but it works!

I'll add another remark: not every site likes being given an email address with the plus sign in it, even though it is a legal character. Some sites are checking for fairly simple address formats, though the actual allowed format is quite complex.

  • 1
    +1 for Not every site likes being given an email address with the plus sign in it, even though it is a legal character. Some sites are checking for fairly simple address formats, though the actual allowed format is quite complex. Commented Apr 14, 2018 at 13:34

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