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What Your Email Address Says About You

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41 comments on “What Your Email Address Says About You”

  1. One thing to me that looks worse than simply a hotmail address for a business (which in itself, to me, is fine: if I hire Joe Bloggs Plumber, I don’t expect them to be an IT expert, a hotmail address is fine!) is having a web address *and* a hotmail address. It shows they don’t worry about details. Example:

    “joe bloggs plumbers, or telephone 01234 567890″ is fine
    “joe bloggs plumbers,,, 01234 567890″ makes me cringe. You have the entire domain of… why not use it?

    • Sometimes the webmail interface is so awful that they don’t want to use it. I have friends with their business who found the webmail service provided too difficult to use. I put Thunderbird onto their machines to give them a decent interface. Plus it provides a back up of their emails.
      Unknown by the prospective customers, enquiries from their website go to a Gmail account to filter the spam, and they are automatically forwarded to their domain address. Any replies they send out, come from their domain address.

  2. Hi Leo….Yep….I am one of those “older” AOL users, probably since the early 1990’s. Mostly, I subscribed because in my little world it was the only game in town and it was the easiest. Now, complacency has kept me here, plus there’s no one I need impress with my email address (except maybe AskLeo!). While I am fairly computer-illiterate, with the help of my PC Manufacturer’s Tech Support, I do enjoy “tinkering” with my pc. I have been able to upgrade with additional memory, added an extra drive and replaced -if I remember correctly – my soundboard? It made me feel like a real Computer Techie.

    I am a PAID subscriber to AOL and have used their 24/7 Tech Support by phone and online. In my several experiences, I have found them to be exceptionally helpful, patient and friendly. While they start off presuming they’re dealing with someone with very little pc ability, as the conversation continues and they can ascertain what I was and wasn’t capable of, they raised the level of explanations. Still, they always ask if I understood and never used all those horrible ambiguous technical words that leave me grinding my teeth and pulling out my hair.

    The free subscriptions and services, I’m not so fond of.. A few of the services seemed to be more a commercial entity, separate from AOL, and two that I tried really wreaked havoc with my computer until I was able to correct the situation (with AOL’s support).

    I do appreciate the AOL-provided AARP, except the few discounts AARP provides me seem not worth the bombardment of junk snail mail I now receive.

    Bottomline, I LOVE AOL and its 24/7 Technical Support.. They’ve never let me down when I was in desperate need of help or explanations for even the simplest of questions. Now, aren’t you glad you asked!

  3. If a company uses a Hotmail, gmail, aol/aim or any other free email services, I always consider it as spam. Yes I will judge a business by the email address they use. I know some may be a legitimate business, as I have learned 90% will be spam/scams. A custom email address makes a business look a lot more professional and will be taken serious.
    As for a nonbusiness personal email address free email services is fine in my opinion. I use gmail and Hotmail, I had a yahoo address years ago, I deleted it the day after I made it I just didn’t like it. Back in 2007 to 2009 I was a tournament host for a gaming site, I had a aim address i used only for hosting reasons. I haven’t used or logged on to aim since 2009, I did delete all contacts before I abandoned it.

  4. Leo, WONDERFUL addition to the Ask-Leo archive. You didn’t go far enough! Utilizing email addresses that identify you in any way other than your legal name, when doing business, can serve to create an image either that you are very naive or that you have something to hide. A businessperson with whom I am currently involved in litigation persisted on corresponding under the name “foxy babe {something or other)” despite the fact that we both knew each others’ real names, addresses, phone numbers, etc. I am hoping that when the particular court involved reads documents I’ll submit, the fact that I used my legal name as my email address from beginning to end of this sorry business matter, while my opponent used “foxy babe,” will present me in a positive light to what we call here a “trier of fact.”

    • I thought the same, until I searched the site and saw Leo had already addressed that issue in 2006 here: (although it would’ve been nice if he had touched upon it again briefly here, to see if he had any new insights).

      I agree: I’ve seen more than one businesses using free e-mail accounts as their main contact venue. It’s unprofessional, IMNSHO. Normally, businesses doing that give me a very bad first impression. If they’re that cheap (or uneducated) on that front, what guarantees me they aren’t equally cheap (or uneducated) in other areas.

      • Ack, nevermind. I should have scrolled down before posting this. Leo DID touch briefly upon the issue of businesses using of free e-mails in other posts below. :-P

  5. I started out with a Netscape address but when AOL took over and all my emails were just forwarded through to AOL I decided to just use @aol. It was less characters to type so what the heck. I became aware of the email address prejudice about 8 years ago when my then senior in high school daughter asked me why I was using aol for email. ” Mom nobody uses aol anymore – you should open a gmail account.” So I did and use it for some things but I still like the aol format better.

  6. Like most people with Windows 7, 8 or 10, I have a hotmail account and an account because Windows encourages you to sign in to your computer with your hotmail or outlook account.

    But most people also pay an ISP for their internet access – and therefore, also get one main email address plus the option to create several other email accounts, all with the same address ie: And I have 4 email accounts with my ISP, which I use for different things.

    However, there is one major benefit in maintaining a free email address and that is that if you change your ISP, you still have your free email account as a constant.

    • Responding to Sheri:
      Some years ago I decided that as a matter of principle one should separate e-mail address identity from ISP.
      While some people change e-mail identities periodically for many people an e-mail address becomes a part of our identity and how people reach us.
      “Decommissioning” an e-mail account can be a long, slow and tedious process. In addition to all our social and business contacts there are all the websites & services that have an old e-mail address in their records. In some cases you might be happy to abandon them, but sometimes you want to maintain the continuity of the relationship.
      A relationship with an ISP is often more short term based on service, cost & geography. I have used 4 ISPs in about 16 years starting with a dial-up service. I changed to a national telco when they rolled out ADSL, then moved to another ISP that was offering an uncapped product and am now with another ISP when I moved country.

  7. For what it’s worth, I’d like to confirm your hypothesis about folks with addresses. In my 20+ years in computer support, I’ve come across numerous people who use AOL for email. I can’t think of a single time when one of them was computer savvy. I can honestly say that *every* AOL user I’ve encountered operated at a novice level, and the vast majority today would be 50+ years old.

  8. Anxiously awaiting the results of the “How good is the AOL paid service?” exercise. My current ISP (a paid service) is apparently dumping that offering onto AOL; the new service can’t be any worse than the old one is :), and may be worth looking forward to. I have a relatively rare and somewhat non-amateurish e-mail address now, and no one from my current ISP or AOL has been able to tell me whether or not I will be able to retain it. It would be wonderful if we could retain email addresses across suppliers, as we can retain telephone numbers, but that will probably be a while, if ever.

  9. Back in the day, the vast majority of posts from AOL users were devoid of grammar or logic. There was good reason to consider them clueless newbies.

  10. I so agree; those with & I put in this same clueless category …
    I’ve maintained that middle ground on these machines, so many will ask me a question –
    the easiest (maybe silliest although I don’t see any question as such if it’s real) seem to be from those with those e-addresses.
    My problem – & the reason I so enjoy receiving your newsletters – is maintaining this middle ground nowdays … I’m still able to sit someone down & within an hour teach a newbie all they need know of these machines, but things seem to be changing faster than I seem to be able to keep up ;-)

  11. My first email account was Hotmail which could be accessed once a week at an internet cafe. 1 euro per hour and most of that hour deleting spam! Switched to Compuserve using dial-up but they kept changing their phone number without notice which made keeping up somewhat problematical. At the time living in Spain signed up for which turned out to have been a very good move as I have moved countries twice since then and have not needed to change address and I honestly can’t see why I will ever have to, unless of course yahoo folds.

  12. I found your most recent talk about what email address you have to be very informative. Years ago I got an AOL address without thinking much about the way it would appear down the road. Since I have used it for so long and even for the past four years (after my job with IBM went to India) placed it on my business cards, I am unsure how to proceed. If I get rid of it and use a new one, then anyone who has an old business card would not be able to contact me, possibly causing me to lose revenue.
    I have over 34 years in the IT industry and had not realized that some people / companies would look down upon it.

    • No reason to drop the old email address. Open a new email account, put it on your business cards and resume etc. and keep checking your AOL account for emails from people who haven’t got wind of the change. I do that with my 18 year old Yahoo email account. I now use it mostly for receiving newsletters. Every so often I get an email from someone I haven’t had contact with in years.

    • If it were important, I would a) get a new email address (for business, a new email address on your own domain), and then b) forward the email to it. It does mean you would have to keep the address, but you would simply stop using it for anything other than forwarding to your new, real, email address.

  13. I still use a “paid” yahoo personal email (not the free one full of ads). Would that be perceived as belonging to an older person as well?

  14. As ever, Leo, your articles attract great interest and prompt sensible comments.
    Permit me to add that I believe Yahoo! and Hotmail are, between them, responsible for over 90% of the world’s spam. If that weren’t bad enough most users of these services persist in accessing their correspondence via webmail. Despite best attempts to add security to these, hackers are becoming more and more sophisticated in their ability to track keystrokes so that, sooner or later, these accounts are inevitably hacked.
    Twenty-five years ago when the Internet was in its infancy, and completely innocent, I registered a domain comprised of the three initials of my trading name. At the time my peers thought me mad but I’ve never looked back. Recipients of my e-mails perceive me as professional and I’ve turned down attractive offers to sell my domain.

  15. Liked the information and some of it I totally agree with but some, not so much. I am an oldy but a goody. Started out with Q-Link. After moving to a place where my only choice was dial up, AOL was about the only offering I had. Now that DSL has been available, I use their address. Dropped using AOL, still pop in occasionally just because BUT I actually use Hotmail for places that insist on having an email address to even look at their website. Rarely check it. Have it locked down as tight as I can. So until we can totally control the places we must give our email addresses, will continue to use Hotmail for my privacy and convenience.

  16. I consider my email address to be part of my branding strategy, that is, I feel my “brand” should carry through all forms of public representation. Part of that strategy is to leverage the email options provided to me by my ISP and use as my easily identifiable email address.

      • I totally agree. No matter what line of business you’re in – or how small your business may be – you’ll lose work if your business doesn’t have a solid web presence.

  17. Hi Leo … Happy New Year !!! Enjoy your expertise on so many issues. Fun to read thru comments too. I’m lucky, I guess, because my ISP – thru the local telephone office – offers a local email address that I’ve used for years without problems and it stays somewhat the same as opposed to the Hotmail that my sister-in-law uses and constantly calls me for help because it changes on her and she says she can’t find items anymore … like even how to write a new email (guess she doesn’t see the options in the Hotmail menu bars) Advice I give her to either to buy herself a good Windows 7,8 book and actually read it or, as for emails, Google your problem and find an answer !! She tells me she does that but does not understand the directions they tell her :-( I’ve actually had a gmail account for years and access it occasionally …. use it just for newsletters that I subscribe to.
    Again thanks for all the great info …… keep it up.

  18. As a side note, “AARP” doesn’t stand for anything other than the letters “AARP”. A quote from Wikipedia (

    “The organization was originally named the American Association of Retired Persons, but in 1999 it officially changed its name to “AARP” (pronounced one letter at a time, “ay ay ar pee”) to reflect that its focus was no longer American retirees.[14]”

    I think AARP’s primary focus now is on making money.


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