What does your email address say about you?

The following article was first published on October 1, 2014 at aiic.net and is reproduced here with permission.

Interpreters, what does your email address say about you?

The image projected by many domain names may be costing you work. Having your own can be a game-changer.

What does your email address say about you? More than perhaps you think. And probably not what you want! Are you a dinosaur, amateur or serious business person? Read on!

First impressions count. You wouldn’t meet a client in your scruffiest sweatshirt and you wouldn’t send them a CV hand-written in pencil. Today though our first contact with a client, and therefore the first impression we make, is often by email. What kind of impression are you making?

Email addresses are built up in a certain way. Often its name.surname@companyname.xx where xx is a 2-letter country abbreviation, eg. .fr or .co.uk, or the 3 letter .com. And each part of the address says something about the owner of the address.

What you can customize in an address can in simple terms be gauged from left-to-right: The further left, the easier to change. We can almost all have our own name.surname@ in our email address. Whereas the possibilities for the final 2 or 3 letters on the right (.fr, .com, .au) are preset and we can only choose from existing options. Immediately to the left of this is the domain name, which you can define for yourself. For a fee! You may flinch at the idea of paying for a domain name, but you should know that even if your current one is ‘free’, someone is paying for it somewhere and that part of your email address tells us who. And that in turn tells us something about you.

For example Jonathon@weightwatchers.com. So, Jonathon doesn’t own the domain; Weightwatchers do and they have issued him with his address. He must be either a member or an employee of Weightwatchers. We know though that Jonathon@hotmail.com doesn’t mean he works for Hotmail, so why is he using their domain name? And what might that name convey? Let’s take a look.

Common address types amongst interpreters

  • 2348723@compuserve.com

“I am a dinosaur with no name.”

Congratulations! You were one of the first people to have an email address. Less good: You now have one of the first ever email addresses.

  • pete.jones@compuserve.com pete.jones@aol.com pete.jones@yahoo.com pete.jones@wanadoo.fr

“I am antediluvian. And an amateur. But I have a name.”

These email addresses are from Internet Service Providers that were big in the 1990’s and crashed and burned in the 2000’s. If you’re using them you’re not keeping up with the times. Also, what does using the email domain of a failed, failing or non-existent company say about your professional services? Nothing good!

If that were not enough, these email suffixes are also for personal, not professional accounts so they immediately tell the addressee that you are an amateur, not a professional.

On the plus side, the addresses include your full name – an essential.

  • ClarenceCooper@hotmail.com ClarenceCooper@outlook.com ClarenceCooper@free.fr ClarenceCooper@gmail.com

“I am a penniless amateur.”

These email suffixes denote free personal account addresses. So you are putting yourself in the same category as people who need to use free email addresses – students, children, pensioners, those of no fixed abode, and people who don’t work. In short, non-professionals with no money. (There is some discussion as to whether @gmail.com addresses belong in this category, but I’m on the side that says they do!)

  • petejones536@hotmail.com

“I am a SLOW penniless amateur

… who is happy to settle for 2nd best because 535 other penniless amateurs with the same name as me were quicker at registering for the email address I wanted!”

  • martine.gallacher@edu.au martine.gallacher@bath.ac.uk martine.gallacher@sorbonne.fr

I’ve just graduated (and therefore have no experience in my chosen profession).”

The first two email addresses carry a common university suffix and show that you’ve just graduated and haven’t got around to getting a better email address yet. The third is a French equivalent, but which equally clearly identifies you as a student or recent graduate. Alternatively it may suggest you are a lecturer at a university. That’s great in academic circles but not from a client’s point of view. It suggests interpreting is just a sideline business.

  • dorasmith@orange.fr dorasmith@btinternet.co.uk dorasmith@blueyonder.co.uk

“I am a technophobe amateur with my own home.”

These email addresses come with paying for a personal fixed-line internet service subscription. So it tells everyone you have a long-term rental contract or that you own your home. But if you use the email account offered by your Internet Service Provider, it’s probably because you don’t know how to set up any other type of address.

  • unitedchampions@gmail.com lovetosurf@hotmail.co.uk psgtoujours@free.fr

“I think life is a hilarious joke…
… Since I don’t take life seriously you needn’t take me seriously either.”

  • anjagi@provider.com


Taking the first two letters of each of your names (andrew james gillies) might be an easy mnemonic for you to remember, but what about the rest of the world? firstname.surname@somewhere.xx is always going to be easier

  • frances.black@aiic.net frances.black@sft.fr

“I am a professional with a name.”

Better! Using a professional association email suffix is a good idea because it shows you are part of an organization that (presumably) represents some sort of professional
standard. Similarly staff interpreters will usually have institutional addresses which give the same professional impression, e.g. frances.black@institution.org, but of course if you are a staff interpreter, you’ll be less worried about making a good impression on potential clients!

Most associations, however, will still be unknown to many outsiders so you should also include an explanation of the domain name (eg. aiic or sft in these examples) in the signature at the bottom of each mail.

Frances Black / Conference Interpreter / AIIC – International Association of Conference Interpreters

  • david.smith@parisinterpreters.com interpreting@davidsmith.eu

“I am a professional. I run a business. My business is interpreting.”

Domain names are not expensive. Many colleagues have them already. If you tell someone you don’t have a mobile phone they will raise an eyebrow. A professional without their own domain name is the same. You could also combine forces with colleagues to share one, for example @parisinterpreters.com could be a domain for 5 or 6 interpreters, not just one.

NB. There is one important caveat to having your own domain name and email address. It builds the expectation that the corresponding website – www.parisinterpreters.com or www.davidsmith.eu – does exist. If it doesn’t, that makes a poor impression. But professional websites for conference interpreters will be the subject of a future post!

Andrew Gillies