What Are Some Common Email Symbols?

by Kevin Lee

Effective communication means more than mastering spelling, grammar and etiquette. Whether you're a job seeker or you use English as a second language, it's important to learn how to tell people an email address so that they can send messages to it correctly. That's possible when you know the names and meanings of common email symbols such as ".", "@", "-", "_" and "*". You can also use special symbols called emoticons that help you convey emotions in messages.

Email's Work Horse: the At Sign

Type the character that sits above the "2" on your keyboard and you make it possible for computers to know the difference between your email username and the address of the server that manages your email. Known as the "at" symbol, it's so important that when developers validate email addresses, they write code that searches a string for it. Not only must it exist, but it cannot be the address's first character. If you needed to tell others an email address such as tjpeters12345@example.com, you'd say "tjpeters12345 at example.com."

Dots: Vital Separators

One reason that so many strings contain separators is that computers need them to identify unique bits of information that lie within a string. The period you see on your keyboard helps separate different parts of a name. Suppose you needed to tell a friend the following email address: john.doe4391@example.com. Although you could say "john period doe4391 at example period com," the correct pronunciation is "john dot doe4391 at example dot com." Whether you're giving an email address or website name, use the word dot instead of period. This email address also has a compound name, john doe, where the dot separates the first name from the last.

Underscores and Hyphens: Optional But Useful

Digital communication would be much easier if you could use spaces in your email addresses. For instance, if you owned Super Mega Pizza Plus, ideally you could use an email address such as Super Mega Pizza Plus@example.com. Computers don't like spaces in those addresses, but you can use underscores and hyphens as separators. In this example, you might create an address named Super_Mega_Pizza_Plus@example.com. Underscores and hyphens also make it possible for people to create unique email addresses. Suppose you need an email address for your Awesome Cakes business. If someone else already owns awesomecakes@example.com, you can still use the name by calling yours awesome_cakes@example.com or awesome-cakes@example.com.

Email Address Rules

Computers expect certain symbols to reside in specific locations within an email address. For example, as already mentioned, every valid email address must contain an "at" symbol that's not at the beginning of the address. Further, email addresses can contain several dots that must lie withing a string's interior; a dot cannot begin or end a valid email address. The last dot must appear after the "at" sign and at least two characters before the end of the address.

Have Fun and Engage Others

You may also include special symbols in other parts of an email message to enhance it. Used sparingly, asterisks around a word or phrase can draw attention to it. For instance, instead of typing, "Follow these critical steps," you could say, "Follow these *critical* steps." Experiment with different emoticons to show people how you feel. For example, the smiley face emoticon, or ":)", tells others you're happy, jesting or in a light-hearted mood. Use the yell symbol, or ":-O", to make an important point. An excellent way to convey that you're perplexed is to include ":-/" in your message. Discover additional symbols that can help you fine tune your communications (see Resources).

About the Author

After majoring in physics, Kevin Lee began writing professionally in 1989 when, as a software developer, he also created technical articles for the Johnson Space Center. Today this urban Texas cowboy continues to crank out high-quality software as well as non-technical articles covering a multitude of diverse topics ranging from gaming to current affairs.

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