Email naming conventions

If you’re starting a new organisation, this is the best time to adopt an email naming standard. Many only start thinking about it when they realise they have two members named John Doe.

Here are a few benefits to adopting email naming conventions.

  1. Unique email addresses can be created more easily. (It’s a matter of time before you have two John’s in the organisation!)
  2. It’s easier for members of the organisation to be contacted. Email addresses can be guessed based on the convention.
  3. Your organisation will appear more professional.

Very often, small organisations start their operations with This poses a problem when you start expanding – having and will often cause emails to be misdirected to the wrong John!

A simple solution to this is to add the last name to the email address. Most organisations have a unique character that separates first names from the last. Some use a period (.), hypen (-), underscore (_) while some don’t have any separator at all. Don’t over-complicate matters and use more than one separator (believe me, I’ve seen it before!).

Here are some of the common conventions.

My personal preference is to use for two reasons. You reduce the chances of duplication and the period as a separator makes it visually readable in an instant. Underscores have inherent problems – such as when reading it out, or if the line it is on needs to be underlined.

Exceptions to the rule

In life, there are always exceptions for a reason. Let’s take a look at some of the scenarios below and start to think about what needs to be done before they occur.

Extremely long names 

Are you still alright with the convention if the email address was or The chances for error are exponentially higher and may cause counter-productivity. In such circumstances, I would advocate for or

Non-standard names

Not all names follow a first name and last name convention. What then? Decide and choose a standard when you encounter such an issue. For Chinese names, of the form Lee Chee Liong (Lee is the last name), email address conventions in Asia often favour


Unbelievable, but it could still happen. Will you tag on a number at the end, or will you adhere to a different standard when a conflict arises? Once again, decide early and stick to it across the organisation.

Large organisations

Some large companies use a subdomain to differentiate between departments, which does further reduce duplication. Emails of this form would be and

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