Send and Receive Listserv List Email

Table of contents

This document details how to get started using a Listserv, including how to reply, find commands, unsubscribe, and find more Listserv lists.

Sending mail

The important thing to remember when participating in a discussion is that discussion mail must be sent to the listname, as opposed to requests for services, which go to listserv. One of the most frequent mistakes beginners make is to confuse "participating in a list discussion" and "requesting system services."

Participating in a list discussion, send mail to: listname@hostaddress

        For example:

Requesting system services (ie. subscribing or unsubscribing), send mail to: listserv@listserv.hostaddress

        For example:


Replying to Listserv mail

How replies are handled varies with the mail client you use. Refer to the documentation on your mail program or client for specifics.

When you reply to someone's mail that you received through a Listserv list, there are two important questions to answer before you can type your reply (depending on the way the list has been set up):

• Do I want to include the original message in my reply?

    In a discussion, the best reply to this question is yes. It is useful to include in your reply the material to which you are replying, because the discussion may have progressed beyond what you've seen, and will need context. Use your mail programs editing features to remove irrelevant lines of a message.

• Do I want to reply to the entire list?
    You need to determine whether your reply goes to the entire list (probably the address on the Reply-to: line, or just the sender (probably the address on the From: line. In your outgoing mail, make sure you're sending it to the intended audience; for example, try not to send replies that you want directed to the original sender to the entire list.
NOTE: The first time you reply to mail from a given list, look at the Reply-to  and From lines to ascertain where they are going.


Basic command list

To get a basic command list, send mail to the Listserv service address with the command:
This will return a file with basic Listserv commands that you can save and refer to later.


End a subscription

When you no longer wish to be part of a discussion list, use the Listserv service-request procedure to send the command:
    UNSUB listname
For example, if you will not be able to access your email account regularly over the summer break to read/send messages to the WMST-L (Women's Studies) list, then you would type UNSUB WMST-L as the first line in your mail message to If you do not unsubscribe from your lists when you leave, mail messages from your lists will accumulate in your email account and reduce the amount of storage space available for other mail and files.

If you are not able to access your account for several days and you don't want to have a large backlog of discussion items waiting for you when you return, use the service-request procedure with the SET NOMAIL command to suspend delivery of list mail. Then, when you return, use SET MAIL to resume mail delivery.
         SET listname NOMAIL

    SET listname MAIL
Using our example for the WMST-L (Women's Studies) list, you can stop mail for this list by sending mail to Just enter SET WMST-L NOMAIL in the body of the mail message to stop delivery of messages.

To activate mail, send mail to and enter SET WMST-L MAIL as the mail message.


Other available lists

Use the LIST command and the service-request procedure to get a listing of all the publicly available lists handled by the host machine to which you mail the request. The host machine at the University is

Send a mail message to
Subject: (none)
Message-text: LIST

NOTE: Not all Listserv lists are advertised publicly; they are private lists and will not display via the LIST command.



If you want more detailed help, visit L-Soft Documentation and Manuals, a site that has several manuals on using Listserv available, or contact the Service Desk.