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Posted on 27 July 2011

“Question: someone just emailed me about their plans to run for city council. Is it out of line for me to suggest they stop using a hotmail address?”

When I posted that on Facebook last week, I had no idea it would open up so much discussion. But it did, capping out at 67 comments (many mine) from people for and against the use of A smaller, albeit still large (for me) came on Twitter. It seems to be an issue that resonates with people.

Before I go further, I want to temper this by saying that for personal email, I could care less what provider someone uses. You’re entrenched, you have your old emails there, it works for you, go for it. I also don’t want to talk about the relative merits of one email service over another. We all have opinions. And I certainly would never judge someone based solely on their email provider– I’m still going to put the content of the email above where it came from (though others may not be so kind).

I am, however, very interested in whether or not you can seem professional while using a email address. The answer (at least in fields of communications, design and technology) increasingly seems to be “no.”

When I posted my comment, I was thinking of this and this. One humorous and one serious look at the generalizations that go along with different email addresses. In either case, hotmail doesn’t look good.

I’m not saying this is fair. I’m not saying it even makes sense (though some people will certainly try to rationalize it). But is it any more arbitrary than any of the other conventions we have?

You don’t show up for a job interview in ripped jeans and a grubby t-shirt, even though they cover you the same as a suit and tie. You don’t scribble phone numbers on cereal boxes even though it accomplishes the same thing as a business card. And you put resumes on white paper, not pink, even though it doesn’t affect the information contained within.

As a society, we’ve decided superficial information matters. It speaks to the (supposed) competence and professionalism of the individuals behind the content, regardless of the content itself. Whether you agree or disagree with the sentiment, it’s worth knowing what subconscious messaging you’re putting out there every time you send an email.

Filed under: Best Of, technology

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