I have a quite common (in my country) name and surname, so I have a personal email address that is like [email protected], the country suffix added because john.smith was already taken. It is easy to remember (unlike plain numbers) and unchanging.

Unfortunately, when I have to dictate it to other people, they sometimes forget the last part, so any message that I was going to be sent would inevitably get lost. This happens especially when I have no means of checking whether they have written down the address correctly, e.g. when speaking at the phone. Sending the email address by SMS doesn't work either because they may copy it wrong (it happened too). In informal contexts (e.g. with friends) I often make a quick remark: "hey, don't forget the '.uk'!" when dictating the address, but I fear it could be a little condescending in other semi-formal situations, like:

  • a landlord
  • a trusted stranger who has to send me some document
  • an employee at bank/insurance/etc.

How I can ensure they got correctly my address without sounding condescending?

  • How adamant are you about keeping that suffix? Would an orthagonal solution here be... to change your email adress to something less confusing? I think you have to either go for something very noticeable, and thus easy to remember (for instance threaljohnsmith@....) or something expected and thus easy to remember like john.smith62@...
    – Stian
    Commented Mar 9, 2020 at 8:32
  • @StianYttervik. Even not considering that changing the e-mail address involves always a non-negligible effort, the alternatives you propose are a little unprofessional. Especially using the year of birth: it always seemed a bad idea to me Commented Mar 9, 2020 at 17:58
  • Agreed, but functionality trumps professionality... If clients are sending mail to the wrong John Smith - that is a potential disaster. I'd go to any length, including the number of the beast behind my name, to avoid that.
    – Stian
    Commented Mar 9, 2020 at 22:51

3 Answers 3


I have an unusual last name that is subject to a very common misspelling.

I've taken to saying "a common mistake people make is to put i before e; everyone seems to do that" when giving out my e-mail address. No one has seemed to mind and that has helped. I've also taken to saying "give me your e-mail and I'll send you something; that way you know you have my correct e-mail".

In the end, you can't make anyone do anything; all you can do is to make it easier or more desirable for others to do the right thing. I wouldn't worry about sounding condescending about getting communications with you correct as long as you're not trying to tell people something they already know. It's one thing to say "i before e in my last name"; it's totally different to say "only a dope would put the e before the i in my last name".


I do have a very uncommon email provider. What works for me is to apologize beforehand ("my email is a bit uncommon, let me spell it out for you") and then use the NATO phonetic alphabet. That way I'm sure I've done my best for them to get my actual address and they don't get offended because I began by saying that my email is weird. They then usually repeat it to be sure they got it right.

Most of the time they'll ask where I get that weird email address from. I'd then tell them the story (a provider that plants trees to compensate the carbon footprint of the emails) and that lightens up the mood. Making a joke on the common frequency of your name could do that too.


In a more formal face to face context, you could hand out personal business cards. Otherwise, as someone who doesn't use my name at all in my email address, simply spell out your email address. People tend to simply write down what they hear in that context. So instead of saying "my email is john smith uk at example dot com", you should say "my email is j-o-h-n-s-m-i-t-h-u-k at example dot com" (assuming example doesn't need to spelled out as well).

  • My ex has her first name last name @ email provider.com, with no separators in her username. Someone else at the same provider has first name.last name, another person has first name-last name, a third has first name_last name, and there are also people with numbers and .country, and stuff. She knows this because she gets misdirected email from all of them. In many cases, it's because they're not explicit about punctuation. She knows about the variations she knows of because this has been going on for decades, and sometimes she gets hints from people. To be clear, OP had puctuation you ignored
    – Ed Grimm
    Commented Mar 15, 2020 at 14:14
  • @EdGrimm You would say the punctuation, assuming your email provider doesn't strip them out. I believe Gmail ignores periods.
    – pboss3010
    Commented Mar 16, 2020 at 12:45
  • I know that. My point is, you didn't in your example, despite the fact that the OP's example email had dots. Just checking gmail's policy on usernames, either my memory is faulty or they changed their policy, because - and _ are not allowed, but period is, and so would not be ignored. People thinking stuff like this gets ignored is a large part of why my ex gets so much misdirected email.
    – Ed Grimm
    Commented Mar 26, 2020 at 22:38

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