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How Do I Get a Recipient’s Email Address and Name to Show in the To: Line?


I’ve noticed sometimes when I get an email from someone who used a distribution list, that everyone’s actual name along with their email address is displayed in the “To” field. I’ve noticed this from friends who use MSN and AT&T though I’m not sure about Yahoo and Gmail and so forth.

Seeing all the recipients’ actual names along with their email addresses tells me who they actually are when I might not be able to tell from some other cryptic email addresses. Now I know I can set up my mail so that my name appears as the “send” instead of my email address, but how can I have all my note recipients’ actual names, along with their email addresses, always be displayed in the “To” field? All my contacts have their first and last names in the appropriate fields in my Contacts list. But is there another field in AOL that will allow me to do that?

I’m not exactly sure whether you’re asking about the “To” line in email that you receive, or in email that you send. The answer is actually quite different depending on which it is – and I’ll touch on that, and email addressing in general.

Though I will throw out the caveat that I’m not very strong on AOL. So if things don’t work the way I describe with your AOL email client, you may need to actually ask AOL for some help.

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Addresses and names

The low-level email protocol that all mail servers use to send email back and forth supports two different pieces of information for each recipient:

  1. A descriptive name or display name, which is actually optional and is in fact ignored by the protocol.
  2. The actual email address of the recipient; the email address to which to send that email.

If you’ve ever seen a name followed by an email address in angle brackets, that’s what you’re seeing:

John Q. Public <>

An email address alone? It’s just an email address. An email address in angle brackets is what the mailer actually pays attention to if there’s a descriptive name in front of it. Like I said, the descriptive name is otherwise ignored.

You set your own when you configure an email account. Most email programs or services will actually ask you for two pieces of information: your name and your email address. Then, when it sends email, it sends it as being “from” your name as the display name followed by your email address in angle brackets:

From: Ask Leo! Reader <>

Now, this isn’t something you can type in when you compose a message; it’s actually something that the email service or program constructs for you using the name and email address you configured when you set up the account in your email program or service.

As I said, the name’s completely ignored so you can set pretty much whatever you want. That’s why so often you’ll get spam where the name is one thing, and the email address is something that’s clearly completely unrelated to the name.

Display this, or that?

If there’s both a display name and an email address, email programs can choose what they want to display on the email you receive. They can display only the display name (hence the term), which is very common; they can display the display name followed by the email address in angle brackets, which is what it sounds like you’re seeing on the email you receive, or they can ignore the display name and show only the email address. Typically, they only do the latter if there is no display name to display.

Ye olde From:When you compose email, the “To” line gets kind of interesting.

In most programs, if the email address you type in is in your address book, the program will automatically fetch the display name if there is one. And in most programs, if you start typing someone’s name that matches a display name, the program will show you one or more potential email addresses from your contacts, or perhaps email addresses you’ve recently sent mail to, and allow you to select one.

But in most cases, if you have both a display name and an email address, regardless of how you type it in, the email program should use both in the “To” line. Unfortunately, if that’s not what you’re seeing with AOL mail, I can’t quite explain it.

Changing what’s displayed on received mail

If you’re asking if you can change what you see when you receive email, the answer is simple. You can’t.

What’s shown when you display the email you receive is completely determined by the sender. Your email program isn’t really supposed to play around with that at all.

And of course, I have to point out that it’s bad form to send email to a distribution list in such a way that everyone’s email address is visible to the other recipients. You, or the sender, should probably be using the BCC line for that. Among other things, that cuts down on spam.

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19 comments on “How Do I Get a Recipient’s Email Address and Name to Show in the To: Line?”

  1. Thunderbird will substitute the display name in your address book, if the email comes in with no display name in the To and From fields.

  2. sir,
    i am keen to know about “when a company send mails to many candidates then when we see our mail we see TO: x, y, z etc suppose x is me. then y is what and how many recipients were actually please reply to me.

  3. The answer above is not very helpful. The heart of the question is:
    1) Where in AOL are the option settings so that in the TO or CC fields, the Addressee’s NAME is displayed IN ADDITION TO the email address (when composing an outgoing message). This used to come from the contacts first name/last name fields or the nickname fields (no longer seems to effect displayed or sent address and the name field appears to be unpopulate). This should mimic the 2 part outgoing address, ( NAME FIELD ) AND
    2) Where in AOL are the option settings to ensure that the name field is populated in an outgoing message

  4. Let me explain it this way .When I was using XP, I would, in my address book, register my friend`s full email address, as well, I would give him a nick name. When I would put his nickname in the line for the recipients. his full address would send the email to him. If he was to change his email address, all I would have to do is register his new email address, but only have to remember his nickname. Without this advantage I would have to remember every email in FULL. Why can`t I or can I do this in 7?


  6. In eMail accounts we receive emails from sender’s. We would like to see the senders email address in the address line or The subject line. I had found how to add it to my Gmail, Only after a history back to the beginning of time it was gone. Then Norton program wiped out other history I wanted to keep.
    I want to see who’s sent the email to my mail box? At present the in box received line reads. The name of sender _____ then the subject line. It should look like this { Sender name , email address, subject line} example joe, joe whatever ( or other address AOl, hotmail etc. ) subject
    I hope this is more clear.

  7. Dear Team Leo: the article answer nothing!! Where is the source email address on the ibox line? we want it displayed. It appears that Team Leo does not understand computer as will as they would like us to believe. Team LEO do your research as I had it on my in box once where IT GO? is good for send or receiving multiple emails but does not work for individual received emails.

  8. When I send email to anyone from my Yahoo Mail, Member Services shows instead of my name (sender’s name). Please give me the solution.

  9. Received mails go directly to archive instead of inbox, how can i rectify this? Also when i send an email, the receiver received my email with the name of Yahoo! Warning instead of my name.

    • In order to get help with the archive problem, you’d have to specify which email program or webmail website you are using.That is usuall caused by a filter setting.

        • Click on the gear icon in upper right, click on Settings, then click Filters in the left column. Remove any filters which would send emails into the wrong folder(s)

          I’d try this for the return address problem:
          Click on the gear icon in upper right, click on Settings, then click Accounts in the left column. Click on your email account name and make sure your proper contact information is in there.

          And just to be sure, I’d clear the browser’s cache. A corrupted cache can cause a number of problems. I don’t see that as related to that issue, but it’s something I often do — just in case.

  10. Sunday evening I was going to get on my messages, clicked “Mom’s email” icon, which I always did……………the icon disappeared, and now I have no email service. How do I fix this? I’m not real technical savay, old person, that’s why I’m in a fix.

  11. Mark, before I was able to see full email address when pointer was placed on name of sender ( inbox ).
    Couple days ago such function disappear. Any suggestions? Alex

    • That sounds like something may have changed in the email program or website you use to manage your email. There may not be anything you can do.

  12. Mark Jacobs: –
    I’ve transferred my Contact List from Windows Live Mail on an old computer to Microsoft Office Outlook on a new Windows 11 Laptop … The problem I’m having is when I choose the recipients name to put in the ‘To’ line of an outgoing email, instead of the recipients name being displayed, that persons email address is displayed instead … I only want the persons name displayed … How do I achieve that … When I look at the Address Book there are three columns displayed: – The Recipients Name in the first column, then the other two show the email address duplicated in both columns … How do I get just the recipients name displayed at the senders and recipients end please?


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