In my post on What belongs on a title page, I wrote:

I’ll always harbor doubts about anyone with a Hotmail, AOL or RoadRunner address. If you have an embarrassing email address, get something staid and boring at Gmail.

Several readers disagreed with me in the comments. Kevin, for one:

Talk about splitting hairs. Let’s not get all assuming or snobby about Hotmail/AOL/Roadrunner accounts; something as minor as a free email address preference should not cause you to “harbor any doubts.”

RML2010 felt the same way:

Please, get a grip and don’t allow “it’s Hollywood” to make you choose a gmail script over a hotmail script. At LEAST flip a coin.

It’s time to have a little talk about perception, and why it matters. Some of this is specific to screenwriting, but a lot of it applies to anyone.

Consider your inbox. You have seven new emails from strangers, with the following email addresses:1

  1. smurf667@aol.com
  2. bill@billwaldon.com
  3. rem54mdds@sbcglobal.net
  4. tommfs1982@hotmail.com
  5. christina.alvarez@gmail.com
  6. verdun.singh@stanford.edu
  7. tammy@reallybigknockers.net

Which of these people do you expect has a website? Which do you suspect clicks a lot of animated banner ads? Which ones do you anticipate having the most succinct, well-written message?

Call it stereotyping. Call it filtering. But based on these seven email addresses, I know:

  • Bill, Verdun and Christina’s names.
  • tommfs1982 is probably 28 years old.
  • rem54mdds is (in my opinion) a sucker for using SBC’s email, because it makes him less likely to switch to another provider.
  • The AOL user either likes the Smurfs or has a name like Samantha Murphy.
  • Verdun Singh goes to Stanford, or works there in some capacity.
  • tammy and I seem to have little in common. (And it might be spam.)

Regardless of someone’s email address, you are likely to open and read most of these emails. It’s a pretty low commitment.

But consider a screenplay. Reading a script is a sizable investment of time and energy. From the cover page, all you have to go on is the title, the writer’s name, and possibly an email address.

Based on just their email addresses, I start with mildly positive impressions for Bill, Christina and Verdun. I start with mildly negative impressions for the other four. All that may change once I start reading — but only if I start reading.

Considering it takes five minutes to set up a free email address at a place like Gmail, why wouldn’t you give yourself a better chance at a good read?

  1. I’m making these up. Apologies if I accidentally used someone’s real address.