Here's a challenge for you. How do you find someone's e-mail address?
As you might suspect, there are a number of ways to go about this. Before you read any further though, make sure you understand the anatomy of an e-mail address by reviewing the “Understanding E-mail Addresses” article.
Method No. 1: Ask.
It may seem obvious, but the easiest way to get someone's address is to just ask. If you already know the person, pick up the phone and call. It will certainly save you a lot of time and effort.
Method No. 2: Use online directories.
It would be very convenient if you could consult a central directory of e-mail address. Unfortunately, no comprehensive directory exists, at least not yet. Why not, you may wonder? Imagine the task of compiling hundreds of millions of addresses from all over the world. Keeping the directory current would present an enormous challenge, given the frequency with which people change addresses. Then there's the privacy issue to contend with. Like phone numbers, many people don't want to be listed.
While you can access a number of online directory services, their usefulness is limited. Many are not up-to-date. Also, if the person you're looking for has a common name, the database may turn up a number of addresses. Which one is correct? You'll just have to guess. One database you can try is Spokeo.
If you strike out, don't give up. Try another approach.
Method No. 3: Check business cards and websites.
Most people list their e-mail address on their cards, so if you have one, go look there. Or go to the company website and see if there's a staff directory.
Method No. 4: Mine old messages.
If you've received a message from someone in the past, it contains the person's address. Many e-mail programs, like Outlook and Yahoo! Mail, automatically record the sender's address in your address book. If it's not there, locate the address by opening the old message, then double-clicking on the name in the FROM: field. This should open a box that displays information about the sender.
If you've never received an email from the person, is it possible you were both copied to the same message? If so, try to locate a message to which you were both copied and mine their email address from the TO: or CC: field.
Method No. 5: Search for online references.
If you're looking for the address of a journalist, politician or corporate executive, try using a search engine. For help, refer to the “Searching the Web” article. Your search may turn up articles written by the journalist that contain her e-mail address. Many politicians now have websites with contact information and many companies list key executives along with their e-mail addresses.
You can use search engines to perform very targeted email address finding queries. Take a look at the following video for some advanced tips on using Google to find email addresses.
Method No. 6: Take a guess.
Once you understand how e-mail addresses are constructed, you may be able to figure out someone's address. Believe it or not, guessing frequently works. If you know where a person works you can usually figure out the domain name, for instance, learnthenet.com. But what about the recipient's mailbox?
Suppose you want to contact Mary Jones. Her address may take one of these forms:
- Her first name (email@example.com)
- Her last name (firstname.lastname@example.org)
- Her initials (email@example.com)
- Her first initial and last name (firstname.lastname@example.org)
- Her first and last name separated by a dot (email@example.com)
- Her first and last name separated by an underscore (firstname.lastname@example.org).
If you've received email from someone else at the same organization, try copying the same format. If that doesn't work, give a couple of different configurations a try. The worst that can happen is that the message is delivered to someone else at the organization or that it comes back to you. Send it again using an alternate form. With any luck, it will arrive in her Inbox.