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As a grad student (Note: I am in the humanities, so nobody is really technically inclined), I have an address from my institution (.edu) but I rarely use it. I suppose I do "use" it, but it forwards to my gmail and usually I reply with my gmail address. Almost all of the other grad students, as well as many professors, in my program -- and elsewhere in my field -- do something similar; they don't use their edu addresses, but instead exclusively use gmail. I have been increasingly wary of Google's oversight and have been thinking about switching. But: Considering Gmail's monoculture among academics, is it more "professional" to use a Gmail account, or one that you personally own such as myname@myname.com? Or just weird?

To be clear: This is not about which email address to attach to a publication. That would clearly be my edu address, as it forwards to gmail. This is about what it 'says' about me.

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    Why does a graduate student care about such a trivial stuff? – qsp Oct 3 '15 at 14:05
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    Because I am going on the job market and want to be perceived as professional – Jason Oct 3 '15 at 14:10
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    Redirect it to your gmail. IMHO, it is very weird and unprofessional to use your gmail (which is, theoretically a personal address) in publications. Of course, the interface accessibility is way better, but if you redirect it, you get the best of both worlds. Gmail help has the steps for you to do that, it is very straighforward. – Fábio Dias Oct 3 '15 at 14:20
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    If "job market" means outside of academia, workplace.stackexchange.com is probably a better place for this question. The main body of your question sounds like you are asking which email graduate students should use to communicate with their colleagues, while your comment suggests that you are more concerned with which email to use in job applications? – ping Oct 3 '15 at 14:22
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    @ping to clarify - academic job market. – Jason Oct 3 '15 at 14:22
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I don't know how people view things in the humanities, but in mathematics having your own domain named after you sounds a little presumptuous, at least to me. Some people do, and I find this normal for people like writers or some programmers, but not most types of academics. In addition, sometimes these go defunct because people stop renewing them, so something like gmail is a more "stable" solution. If you dislike gmail and don't want to use your institutional address, check out some other email providers (yahoo, zoho, mail.com).

Note: to me, instituional addresses still seem more "professional" than something like gmail, but sufficiently many people use gmail for professional reasons that it doesn't look strange to use it. In fact, something like gmail is often a better choice for young people who haven't settled down and may change their institutional address several times.

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    "I find this normal for people like writers or some programmers" -- So true. Some people can pull it off and some people can't. – user16092 Oct 3 '15 at 14:59
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    I would never consider a free e-mail service whose existence depends on the goodwill of a commercial entity to be "stable" over any extended amount of time. (However, my opinion may be influenced by the fact that in my country, the (physical) post company once offered a free e-mail service that was specifically advertised as "a reliable free e-mail address for your whole life", which ended up being discontinued after barely 5 years.) – O. R. Mapper Oct 3 '15 at 15:26
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    @RubberDuck: "I don't think Gmail is going anywhere anytime soon..." - yes, so thought the users of other services ;) – O. R. Mapper Oct 3 '15 at 15:49
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    @O.R.Mapper well that's' the kicker isn't it? I don't think gmail will go away - it's too central to Google's mission to track you and sell your eyeballs. But they might radically change it to increase lock-in. For example: I refuse to use Google's "inbox" app, I prefer IMAP. I am afraid that at some point in the future they might just discontinue IMAP... – Jason Oct 3 '15 at 15:56
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    It could be country specific @O.R.Mapper. Here in the U.S., having an email with a yahoo, aol, or hotmail like domain is viewed as unprofessional. For whatever reason, a gmail address is not viewed that way. Preferably, OP would use his actual professional or academic email address IMO. – RubberDuck Oct 3 '15 at 16:16
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I would suggest setting up your institutional email to forward to whichever account you personally like using best. That way, you can put your institutional email as your "official" professional point of contact. Once somebody's in touch and communicating with you, in my opinion it's mostly just important that you not have an address that's dubious enough that it is likely to run into spam filter problems.

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The short:

What you pick for your personal email is entirely up to you since the only people that will see it are those that have moved into your out-of-work life.

I think this is a non-issue, for reasons that no one has answered yet.

When you have your email forwarded to your Gmail, you can also set up Gmail as the sender for your other email address. This means that you can read mail to your EDU address in Gmail, and also send emails and reply to emails so that the from field is your EDU address.

The configuration of all of this is beyond the scope of academia.SE, but there are plenty of other sites in the stack-exchange network where the question has probably already been answered.

In terms of the non-academia question about professionally of Gmail in the workplace: it is completely fine to use your Gmail for personal communications. Anything professional should go through the domain name of the company or institution that is employing / sponsoring you.

If your main work is at one university, but you're doing residency at another and have an email address there, most of the time you probably will still use your main institution's email. The exception to this rule guideline is when you need to communicate with the administration about needs that are under their 'jurisdiction' (facilities, scheduling, etc).

The fact that other colleagues use a non-professional email account for their communications does not mean it's good etiquette. It could (and likely) just means that they are too lazy or too lacking of knowledge to properly setup their email systems for proper separation of professional and personally messages (while also remaining convenient). You can do better than this. From this, what you pick for your personal email is entirely up to you since the only people that will see it are those that have moved into your out-of-work life.

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I agree with @jakebeal about forwarding everything. You clarified in the comments that one reason for this question is because you're entering the job market, so I assume you will be graduating soon. One thing to check would be when (if ever) your institutional email expires, and what happens when it does (e.g., do all emails sent to it bounce regardless of whether you set up forwarding?). Usually nothing happens for at least 6 months post-graduation, but better to be safe than sorry.

Overall, I think what comes before the "@" symbol matters much more than what comes after. If you have an unprofessional email name, it doesn't matter who hosts your email. I don't think people pay too much attention to the details of email addresses as long as they pass the basic "is this something I would be comfortable telling my grandmother" test.

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The concern voiced by the OP is misplaced: The problem is not "what does an email address SAY about me" but rather, "if someone tries to email me in 8 years after reading this paper of mine in a publication, what will happen?"

If you use your own domain name or otherwise maintain your own mail server/domain, you have to keep doing it, or mail sent to you will go undelivered.

As a newly-minted graduate entering the job market, your email address says NOTHING about you...unless your email is something heinous like "ibangbabes69@fubar.com"

If there's anything I would suggest, it's that your email address is a concatenation of your name, i.e. if your name is John Smith, your address is "jSmith@something.com" or "john.smith@something.com." That is far more "professional" than "johnny334@something.com."

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  • Please see my edits above. It actually is about what it 'says' about me and is not about which address to put on a paper. – Jason Oct 3 '15 at 16:21
  • You didn't actually talk about the OP's question regarding john@jsmith.com – March Ho Oct 3 '15 at 22:14
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Email is never free, which means you have to either pay by viewing ads or pay by sending money. If you have a problem with the lack of privacy at Google, you can always use a provider that can better respect your privacy through the use of a more traditional business model. Most paid providers offer generic domains that don't stand out as much as yourname.com in addition to having the option of custom domains. A generic, paid-provider domain will, in my opinion, come off as less pretentious than a custom domain. It might also imply better stability as it shows your email system is professionally managed.

Having had the same concerns on more than one occasion, I have researched email hosts thoroughly over the years. Two very well regarded providers dedicated to email are Fastmail.fm and POBox.com. Both have massive client bases and will probably be around for a very long time.

Finally, be wary of hosting your email with a general web hosting company (cPanel hosting and the like). Without getting too technical, almost every low cost web hosting provider has something called inode limits which a heavy email user will hit very quickly despite promises of "unlimited" storage. Stick to the providers who are dedicated to email as they will use file systems designed for huge mailboxes.

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  • 'Two very well regarded providers dedicated to email are Fastmail.fm and POBox.com. Both have massive client bases and will probably be around for a very long time.' Yes and no. Fastmail and Pobox are indeed well regarded for their competence; I for one have been a Pobox Basic subscriber all this millenium. That being said, Pobox (and Listbox) are now ∈ Fastmail: see here and here. <begin comment length limit evasion/> – TomRoche Jun 8 '16 at 22:24
  • </comment length limit evasion> AFAICS, Pobox Mailstore (a full-fledged email facility) has migrated to Fastmail, while Pobox's alias/filtering/forwarding/SMTP will continue to operate as before. A major unanswered question is, what will happen to pricing in a less-competitive market? – TomRoche Jun 8 '16 at 22:25
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I am quite convinced this doesn't matter at all. As a Gmail user for both my personal and professional activities, I have never encountered problems with using a Gmail address. It's the public address on my website, my CV, my software, and most of my publications (at least those after I decided to use that account exclusively).

Using that account on a permanent basis means that despite being at my third institution (PhD, postdoc, Assistant Professor) in the past few years, everyone along the way always knows the best way to get a hold of me. In fact I transacted all of my job search activities via that account both for my postdoc and my current Assistant Professorship. No one seemed bothered by it at either stage; and they shouldn't be bothered by it.

You could obtain the same convenience from a personal domain, but the difference between that and Gmail is negligible. (This assumes of of course that your Gmail address is something approximating your name or a reasonable substitute for it.)

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I would think you are more likely to switch institutions than gmail is to go out of business. Both events are likely to happen, but you changing institutions has a higher likelihood than gmail being discontinued.

You have a reasonable expectation of privacy using email. You don't have actual privacy, just a legal framework that gives you additional protections when you communicate via an email.

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