Email addresses serve as our mailboxes in cyberspace. Like real mailboxes, they don’t have to be purely functional. They can say something about who you are, something about your style and taste. Unless you plan to use it as a disposable account, your new email ID will become a part of your identity and follow you for many years, so choose one that fits you well and won’t become a burden or an embarrassment over time.
Depending on your needs, you might want your email address to clearly identify who you really are. For an identifiable ID, real names make a good choice. However, real-name email addresses with popular domains such as Gmail and Yahoo are a scarce resource. If the ID you want isn’t available, you can try some combination of your real name, including initials and nicknames. Some people get around the problem by appending their birth year or some other relevant number to the end of their ID, but sharing your age or birthdate puts you at higher risk of identity theft. As an alternative, consider creating a broader title with your real name in it, like “The_Great_Anna_Smith@whatever.com” or “George_J_Salazar_at_Home@whatever.com”. Conversely, if you want your email address to be anonymous, pick something truly original rather than something that others could trace back to you. Don’t use your dog’s name or your favorite movie or anything else that contains identifying information.
Make your email address memorable. If you don’t, people who try to email you might get it wrong. This causes them to either have their email bounced back to them as undeliverable or, worse, delivered to the wrong person. Stick to plausible words and avoid strings of gibberish. If you must use numbers in your ID, keep them short. Strive for clarity and keep away from confusing combinations and other ambiguities, such as the number 1 and the lowercase letter l, or the number 0 and the uppercase letter O.
Grammar and Punctuation
Some people avoid punctuating their email addresses, and omit things like capitalization and underscores, such as “firstname.lastname@example.org” instead of “Darla_P_Ranger@whatever.com”. Omitting the grammar makes an email address easier to type if you already know it, but harder to understand and remember if you don’t. Usually, separating words with a hyphen, underscore or period makes sense. Capitalization also helps. It doesn’t make any difference in the Internet’s email protocols – “Smith” and “smith” are identical as far as the computer cares – but capitals can help make your business cards and online portfolio look more professional, so use them where they are appropriate. They especially help when using initials in names or if you have a name like “McClain,” which would appear as the more confusing “mcclain” in lowercase. Also remember that email addresses can’t usually have spaces or most kinds of punctuation marks besides the ones previously mentioned.
Email addresses are not themselves a form of security. However, they provide potential security breach points. Nothing but good sense can stop you from using your credit card number as an email address. In general, avoid putting any personal information into your email address, except for your real name when needed, and perhaps vague geographical information like “Jake_in_California@whatever.com”.
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