Things I’ve learned with an one-letter email address

As anyone can see, I have my own internet domain name; and sure enough, my domain is based on my name (zeh.com.br). When deciding on an email address to use on that kind of domains, people usually go for the easy or obvious route – for example, using simple addresses such as me@zeh.com.br or zeh@zeh.com.br.

Instead, when I was setting up my new email account, I decided to create separate mailboxes, so they could be used for different purposes – g@ for generic email (ie, might get spammed), l@ for subscribing on discussion lists, and sure enough, z@ for personal, humane email contact.

This has posed a number of problems though. Now, after a couple of years using that approach, I’ve learned that:

  • My email address is wrong. You see, there’s no way somebody can have an email address with one letter as the user name. It’s impossible. So my email address is, obviously, wrong. Who says so? JavaScript checks on some major e-commerce sites (like this one, just to cite one of many examples). Instead of checking email addresses against some simple regular expressions – ie, *@*.* – they opt on doing some other crazy checks and assume rules that aren’t actually usual – like that an email with one single letter is invalid.
  • I’m spam. Yeah, this took me by surprise too – I was quite sure I was sending real email written by a real person. The thing is, some of my mail wasn’t getting delivered and it was just recently that I decided to run some tests. It turns out some email server software automatically blocks email addresses with one letter only – silently.
  • I’m fooling people. I just love when people ask for my email in real life and they look at me puzzled after I write it down. They think that it sure can’t be right – that domain name (my name is as generic in my country as John Doe in english), and with only one letter as the username? It can’t be real.

Shattering news, I know. Even so, I’m not stopping using one-letter email addresses. The solution (at least for less-then-smart websites)? Redirects like gg@. Thanks, Internet.

Update from the future: I’ve stopped using one-letter email addresses in 2008. It’s not worth the effort.

  • LOL — i about died when i read this, but I am also puzzled because a friend of mine has had a single letter email address for *years* and not found issues like you have. for many people, it makes it easy to remember hers.

    keep it up! there’s no need to change simply because some programmers are too damn lazy to consider alternatives to their worldview….. 😛

  • Jeff

    What tests did you run to determine that some server software was blocking your address? I’m having some difficulties with my own one-letter address but can’t quite prove one way or another that it’s because it only has one letter.

  • Zeh

    Jeff: no real research, just general observation when testing with my original one-letter address or with a regular email address.

    To be honest I’ve stopped doing that a few years ago. I still read my old one-letter email addresses as they’re redirected to my new email, but overall it’s way too much trouble to use them as primary email addresses. I prefer the “zeh+keyword@domain.com” combination now, although that also has drawbacks.

  • Jeff

    Thanks, Zeh. I think it may be time for me to make the switch to a multi-letter address, as much as it pains me to do so. 🙂

  • Vassili Tchersky

    Hi, I’ve got a short e-mail also, on my domain name vbc.su, which stands for my initials. I had a one-letter e-mail adress on another domain since 1998 and things got worse in the last years, when Internet got less RFC-compliant than before.

    Especially the ‘+’ character in the local part (the username), that I used to separate mailboxes to avoid spam, proved “invalid” amongst most online registration forms.

  • Zeh,

    Thanks for helping me make this hard decision. I was in the middle of setting up a second email just to deal with the few sites that say t@ is an invalid address. Time to bite the bullet and one more win for the spammers that push sites to not allow single character email.

  • lazycackle

    I’m currently running into headaches with a one letter email address. Silly me to assume RFCs are obeyed. I’ve ordered digital products which have simply disappeared.

  • We have a hosting client with a one letter email address, and she’s recently encountered not only missing emails, but forwards from that address not arriving at her AOL email address, which is where she gets most of her email.