Email Signature Etiquette

As I’m sure many of you do, I use email constantly at work. There are some days at work that I probably spend 50+ % of my time reading and writing emails. No, I don’t type really slow! Managing a team of off-shore developers just has it’s pro’s and con’s and one of the con’s is that 75% or more of your communication is done via email. Since the majority of my day-to-day communication is done via email and the company I work for is stingy when it comes to email storage (a measly 150MB of storage space…really? I get 6.25 GB in my free Gmail account…but that’s a post for another day), minimizing email size is important to me.

That being said, here are a few email signature etiquette tips that I think everyone can take something away from…myself included. Yes, I’ve broken these rules before but over the past couple years I’ve refined my approach.

Signature Format the Nathan Jones Approach:

  • Name: I think this goes without saying but I included it for good measure. If you want to make this bold or slightly (and I mean slightly, don’t make me regret putting this in here) larger than the rest of the signature that is definitely understandable.
  • Company/Office: Many people would make this two separate lines within the signature but I don’t see the need for it. I think it should be combined into a single line with a separator such as a dash (-) or vertical line (|). It looks classy and it keeps the number of lines down.
  • Contact Information:
    • Email Address: My thoughts on this are pretty to the point – it’s ok to have your email address listed on your ‘new email’ signature but it should not be present on your ‘replies’ signature. In Outlook you can create multiple signatures and assign different ones to different types of emails. If you are replying to an email it’s a given that the person already has your email address. If you use a mobile phone to send/receive that only allows one signature – including your email address is acceptable.
    • Phone Numbers: Where do I begin…I got an email the other day that had five different phone numbers in the signature. My first thought is that this person has way too much time, not doing work presumably, to create this signature let alone manage five different phone numbers. I think a signature should have at most – three. A desk/office phone number, a mobile phone number and a fax machine number. If you don’t have a fax then leave it off the signature and make the max two!
    • Instant Messaging Names: In today’s technology driven world I think it’s perfectly legitimate to place a single instant messaging address in your signature. I do a lot of communicating through instant messaging and it’s a quick way for people to get in touch with me. I’d leave it at one though – it makes sense that it be the name to the instant messaging client you use the most…but that’s obviously up to you.
    • Office Address: Unless you work in a job where clients visit your office on a regular occasion or you get a lot of mail sent to that address, I think it’s best to leave this address off your signature. If people need it they can always ask for it. More than likely the number of people that don’t need that address far outweigh the number of those that do.
    • Personal Websites: I think personal websites should be left off of your work email signature no matter what kind of personal website you run. Maybe you just run a blog (similar to this one) but of course there are/will be views expressed that could ultimately upset one of your clients or co-workers and that’s a situation that no one wants to be involved in. I think it’s fine to advertise your personal website on your personal email signature though – I do it!
  • Color: I’m pretty open to colors in email signatures – they make them unique and can call attention to certain pieces of information. Mostly because most email editors these days will format your signature in HTML whether it needs to or not so whether you make your color bright pink (please spare me the pain) or a classic gray I don’t care either way (geek information: HTML color formats require the same amount of bytes for almost all colors). As for how it looks – I vote you stick with a classic color such as black, dark blue, green, gray or some company color if there is one. Personally, I would never look at your signature if it were bright pink, but that’s just me.
  • Images: I don’t know how many times I have received an email with the company logo embedded in the signature but it drives me absolutely nuts. First of all, it takes up space. Normally it uses just a bit more space than formatted text but if you receive as many emails as me those extra bytes start to add up…quickly! My personal thought is that an image should never be embedded in a signature unless your company mandates it. By the way, if they do mandate an image I’d like to hear about it and whether they limit your email storage space.
  • Mobile Note: If you send email from your mobile phone and have a signature set-up I think it’s a good idea to add a small note at the bottom of the signature that indicates that the email is being sent from your mobile phone. It will take up a little space but your signature should be smaller on your phone anyways and a note like this can go a long way in explaining why sentences may be more direct or the occasional misspelled word appears. Personally, I use “Note: This message was sent from my mobile phone.”.

Well, those are just some of my thoughts on email signature etiquette. In summary, keep it short and simple. If you’re a sales person or someone who relies on getting your contact information seen acted upon you can still keep it short and classy and just use a different color or bolded word to get your phone number looked at.

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