Forwarding BOUNCE messages

Tips for the Majordomo list administrator

Messages sent to a list may be sent to the administrator for approval when, for instance:

  • the message matches the list's own filters or Majordomo's general filters;
  • the message has been sent by someone outside the list and mail is only allowed for subscribers;
  • the list is moderated, in which case all messages pass through the administrator;
  • the message is too long (the default is set at 40,000 characters);
  • the message's header is exceptionally long (most often a lengthy list of recipients).

The BOUNCE message's header will indicate why the message was bounced, as in the following examples.

BOUNCE Non-member submission from [joku.tyyppi@hellsinki.if]
BOUNCE taboo body match "/\.pif/" at line 7
BOUNCE global taboo header: /^subject:\s*FREE/i
BOUNCE taboo header: m%content-type:.*text/html%i
BOUNCE Message too long (>40000 chars)
BOUNCE Approval required
BOUNCE Header field too long (>1024)

The BOUNCE message usually arrives in the address The message is approved by adding the following line to the top (as the first line) of the headers:

Approved: password

and forwarding the message to the list's address.

When the message includes the Approved header and the correct password, it will get through the filters to the list.

There are two ways to achieve this effect:

  • Manual approval in the email client
  • Using the approve command in Unix email clients

    Setting up an password

    The email list's settings file must include approve_passwd. This is activated as follows:

    • Go to
    • Sign in with your own username and password
    • Enter the name of the list in section List Name (without quotation marks and the part of the name)
    • Enter the administration password in section Admin Password
    • In section Modify What?, select Configuration Options
    • In the drop-down menu on the top of the page, select All keywords
    • Find approve passwd and enter a suitable password, although not an especially important one
    • Finally, click Apply
    • The answer will arrive to the address marked in the adjacent field.

    Manual approval

    The header of the original message intended for the list will be visible at the beginning of the BOUNCE message's body text. The Approve line must be added immediately before the original headers, without an empty line.

    The procedure is identical regardless of the reason for the BOUNCE message.

    Correspondingly, by adding the Approve line at the beginning of his or her message, the administrator of a moderated list can send mail directly to the list, without separate approval. In this situation, there must be an empty line between the Approve line and the text.

    Approval by means of the approve command

    The list's administrator should use the Pine or Elm clients for reading mail. 

    Begin by creating a .majordomo file in your home directory (note the dot preceding the word). Add a text line to the file.

    list-name password

    If an administrator oversees more than one list, he or she may maintain separate lines for different lists.

    Find the message you need to process from the email client's messages list and press the | character (vertical bar, AltGr + > on your keyboard), type in approve and press Enter. Majordomo's approve command takes care of the message's cleanup and approval.

    Potential problems

    If you have trouble approving messages, check for the following:

    • The list's settings include approve_passwd. If this is missing, the entire Approved: heading, including its password and other header data, are transmitted to everyone subscribing to the list.
    • The password is spelled correctly. Both the list's password and the approve_passwd password are suitable for the purpose but use the latter to avoid risks.
    • The email client you use (particularly Webmail) is not cutting lines that are too long.
    • You sent the approved message to the list's address at, and not to Majordomo at
    • The Approved: password is the first line in your message.
    • The word Approved begins with a capital letter, while the following letters are small. The word should also begin precisely at the beginning of the line and there should be a space after the colon.
    • There are no empty lines above or below the Approved line.

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