What’s Up With All The @ Symbols?

The @ symbol.  It’s a part of every email address you ever type. But what about when you see it in other places online?  Twitter?  Facebook?  Pinterest? Instagram?  What does it mean in those places?  A typical usage of the @ symbol looks a little like this:

An example of an @ reply in use

As you’ll see in the example above, Jennifer has posted a response to our recent post here on the blog about Groupon email subject lines.  I responded with the @ reply by starting out my comment with @Jennifer.  What this symbol says is that I’m speaking directly to Jennifer with my response.  It’s a great way for me to tell Jennifer and anyone else who may be following along with our conversation that I’m responding to her.  Sometimes, in a non-threaded discussion forum such as Facebook, Twitter or a blog post it’s difficult to follow the conversation.  The @ symbol makes it a little easier.  There’s quite a bit of content out there on the web that’s been around for QUITE some time.  You very well may run across a blog post or an article that was written months or years ago with an accompanying conversation.  If you want to respond to a specific person from within that conversation, the @ reply may very well be your answer.

The @ reply in use on a blog post with many comments

This post currently has 153 comments on it.  It was written over 3 years ago, but still to this day gets regular comments on it.  With a piece of web content such as this, the ability to respond to a specific person in incredibly important.  Not only does it tell the person you’re responding to that you’re speaking directly to them, but it tells other people as well.  While there isn’t any “official Internet etiquette” that I’m aware of, the use of the @ reply would certainly be included in such a document.

Got a question about the use of the @ reply?  Leave us a comment (maybe even use the @ symbol!) on this post or drop us a line.  We’re happy to assist!

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