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In order to address or reply to a person, is prefixing an "@" symbol in front of their names becoming a standard in English?

This is really useful in e-communications wherein a parts of message can be addressed to a particular person out of the bunch without breaking up into sentence fragments.

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2 Answers 2

It's a shorthand appropriate to some cases.

Certainly, the meaning of @ has changed. When it was used in email addresses, Ray Tomlinson was punning: the meaning of @ was "each at" referring to prices only, but it was called at and so e.g. my email address being jon-at-hackcraft.net* suggests that I am "at" that host.

When email became ubiquitous other uses of it to replace "at" in other contexts started to develop. Nightclub posters might use it to say where or when an event is at, for example. These were originally being deliberately non-conventional, and then frequent use made it merely informal.

Twitter and Stack Exchange similarly use it to address a remark "at" someone.

From this, it would be understood by many in an email exchange (particularly if they were familiar with Twitter), so you could use it if the tone was informal, and the audience tech-savvy.

It certainly isn't standard English of the sort that would be appropriate in all contexts. As long as you know its a shorthand only appropriate for some informal contexts, especially those where heavy abbreviation would be considered acceptable, then there is no harm in using it.

*Though the dot-separated hierarchy of hosts was a later thing still, so that's a proleptic example.

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In fact, it is no more tied to English than it is to, say, French. –  tchrist Jan 20 '13 at 15:51
    
Don’t forget bang paths like utzoo!watmath!clyde!burl!ulysses!allegra!mit-eddie!think!harvard!uwvax!puff!tom either, via UUCP. Then there is the old %-routing notation. Lots of stuff like that. –  tchrist Jan 20 '13 at 15:54
    
@tchrist well in its being used in this way, it does owe something to one of the English names for the symbol being "at" (though not the only name). If Ray Tomlinson had spoken French he wouldn't have said "Ah ha! user-arobase-host!" But that's a matter of origin, not current usage. As for bang paths, they also post-date the first use of '@' in that way, so they'd also be a proleptic example. –  Jon Hanna Jan 20 '13 at 15:59
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In normal writing, the @ symbol should not be used to address a person. On Stack Exchange, this symbol is used for the purpose of notifying someone in such a way that he will receive a message in his inbox.

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If this is used to just notify, then it need not reside as part of the sentence. But since the general approach is to keep it as it is typed, this new form of punctuation is required to differentiate a name being addressed/notified with a name being part of the statement. –  krishnajay Jan 21 '13 at 6:08
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