I recently almost deleted an email in my In Box sight unseen. It was lucky I opened it though as it was actually a genuine message I needed to see.
So, why did I almost delete it without reading? Because I thought it was spam. It looked spammy. The email address of the Sender looked like the garbage you see in spammer email addresses — you know the type:
firstname.lastname@example.org. Both of those are actual email addresses from spams I’ve received.
The problem with this legitimate email was that it used abbreviations that looked at first as though the address was just a jumble of random letters. I don’t want to embarrass anyone so won’t quote the real thing, but it was similar to this fictitious example:
That stands for:
New Zealand Community Group Chief Financial Officer @ Wellington NZ Community Group.
Luckily the subject of the message was fairly specific to some recent work I’d done, so I realised this message was one I should read.
Beware limiting email addresses
Within an organisation people come and go. Over time the CEO, accounts person, admin assistant, volunteer co-ordinator or whoever is likely to change.
It’s tricky to set up addresses such as
email@example.com. An address that uses a person’s name is ‘tied’ to that person and doesn’t give anything away about their role.
Choose meaningful email addresses
For addresses that you advertise, or at least make public, it’s better to set up addresses that reflect a role, such as
That way the name of the person filling that role doesn’t matter. If they leave or take a holiday the emails can easily be sent to whoever is taking their place.
Such addresses also let ‘outsiders’, such as the general public, know who they’re dealing with.
Avoid acronyms and abbreviations.
Some positions, such as CEO, or CFO are known by their ‘letters’. Info, admin and publications are pretty much words in their own right, even if some are ‘short forms’.
CEO, CFO and the like are more complex though. Not everyone is entirely clear what the various letters stand for, and the letters aren’t very much like words. They are easy to confuse, especially when added to letters that stand for an organisation name.
Put together a whole lot of abbreviations or acronyms and you may just closely resemble a spammer.
Use Real Names
Most email software allows you to enter a Real Name to attach to an email address. Check under Settings, Options, Preferences, or Accounts.
If you don’t attach a Real Name then the recipient of an email may see only the address, for example,
nzcgcfo. It’s hard work to turn that into New Zealand Community Group Chief Financial Officer. It also requires a lot of inside knowledge.
If you set the Real Name in your email software then the email will appear to come from Jo Bloggs (or whoever), which at least looks like a genuine person’s name.
If Jo Bloggs later leaves the nzcgcfo position and is replaced by Sam Biggs the actual email address can remain the same, but the sender’s name will change, and still look like a real name.
The spam plague
Spam represents between 75% and 95% of all email — it’s a plague. People who use email for business or personal reasons are sick of it and very quick to hit the Delete button.
If you want to be sure your message reaches its audience think carefully about the email addresses you use. Choose email addresses that look like recognisable words, rather than a jumble of letters. Make sure you enter a Real Name for each email address. And make sure you write careful Subject lines.
And watch out for capital letters. Names and messages that use ALL CAPS not only appear to be shouting at you, but add a little extra weight on the ‘spammer’ side of the balance.
Written by Miraz Jordan for, and reproduced from CommunityNet Aotearoa Panui, November 2008. This article may have been modified for publication here.