Email Signature Etiquette
I was inspired to write this blog post because of the many bad signatures I see every day.
I was guilty once or twice in my life for creating bad signatures in the past, but I’ve learned through the years what is effective and acceptable. It surprises me how so many people think their signatures are good, so let’s discuss this, shall we?
Now I know bad email signatures aren’t creating a hole in the ozone layer, but it’s a waste that can be avoided. Also, keep in mind this is a personal opinion, but I do feel a lot of people may feel the same way. Google “email signature etiquette” and see for yourself!
By the way, this post is particularly for professionals. You don’t really need to put your signature on a personal email. If you want to, that’s up to you. This etiquette guide is mainly for B2B emails or business to client emails.
Here are some tips on how to create good email signatures:
1. First, make sure you have a signature
As a professional, you must have a signature. Often when I need to call a client or a business owner, I don’t have their number handy in my phone. So, like most people, I might just go to my Gmail account, open a recent email I’ve received and try to locate the person’s name. When a professional has NO signature at all, it can be very annoying trying to find his/her contact info. Finding information that should take 3 seconds ends up taking minutes.
Why make it hard for people to contact you?
2. Keep it short
You don’t need to write your amazing short story in an email signature. If your email is eight or more lines, think about how you can narrow it down to three.
Do you include practically every single way for people to get in touch with you? Too much contact information comes across as desperate.
Is your email address in your email signature? The header of your email already contains this information.
Keep out the sales pitch text and just include a link to your awesome website. Don’t use your signature like a billboard.
You know the clichéd line, ‘Please consider the environment when printing this email’. Seriously? Are people really printing emails? Do you think you’re saving trees by including it in your email?
I’ve seen someone have a signature with six long lines of text AND an image with their glamour shot face with the same text repeated and embedded in the image! It makes me scratch my head. Are they thinking that people will miss the information a couple of centimeters above? Do they think people will be more inclined to appreciate their branding by making a signature FOUR inches high?
One link in your email is much more intriguing than 10. I’m more likely to click on the only link that is there rather than trying to decide which link to click on if I’m faced with a collection.
3. Keep out the flair
Simple is so damn sexy. Don’t use formatting in your signature—plain text is good enough. Keep your Edwardian Script font for your fancy Word documents. Remember that a lot of people read emails on their phone. Why make your signature harder for people to read? Usability takes precedence over design.
Do your receiver’s eyes a favor and keep out the rainbow colors. Do you want to be a professional that looks like you sell ice cream to children?
If you have to use HTML code (with the exception of links) to get the formatting you want in your email, you’re most likely over doing it.
4. Keep images out of your signature
“Companies that embed jpegs into their email sigs should be disbanded and have all their files dropped into a volcano.” —Deadspin
I know, I know — that quote above is quite extreme, but it’s still funny! Images in signatures are perhaps the worst. Allow me to explain why…
The Problem With Images
A lot of people use their phone to check emails. The image embedded in your signature is probably not going to show well on a small screen. The formatting will most likely come out funky and the receiver will need to do 2-3 thumb scrolls just to get past your signature.
In addition, you probably didn’t think of resizing the image when you put it in your signature, did you? When you insert that gigantic image in your signature, the browser is working to resize it every single time it’s being opened. So you’re wasting bandwidth.
Probably worst of all is a signature that is ONLY an image. I’ve seen this many times. If the image doesn’t show up right away, (which is the case most of the time) then your contact information is completely invisible. We all know how convenient it is to be able to click on phone numbers on our mobile phone to call someone. You can throw that convenience out the window when your phone number is in an image.
Let’s say regular email with plain text is no more than 10kb. With an unnecessary image, the size of the email goes up quite a bit. This really adds up through time! Images in an email signature won’t be the main factor of your running out of space in your email, but it can definitely contribute to the unnecessary usage of space for you AND the person you’re sending an email to.
Do us all a favor and please don’t include your glamour shot photo in your email. It’s tacky. Why would you want to put your face in your signature? Do you think it’s good marketing? Do you think people won’t remember you or recognize you if you don’t include it? Are you desperate for attention? Many people are using Gmail or Google Apps so your picture is already popping up anyway.
I’m sure you’ve already noticed this, but a lot of times embedded images don’t show up right away in messages. Most of the time the receiver has to manually accept the image to show it. See the image below.
When the image doesn’t show properly, the image comes through like an attachment and it can be confusing for the receiver because they have to try and figure out what you were trying to send or attach. Finally, it turns out that it was just an image that didn’t go through properly.
I’ve known people who have multiple images in their signature! Imagine a conversation with multiple emails — it can get really messy. Now imagine forwarding that email — all those images go to the receiver as attachments. It’s an epidemic that I’d like to see end!
Bonus Tip #1: Utilize Gmail’s canned response feature (or something similar)
Gmail’s canned response feature can be found in Gmail Labs. This feature gives you the ability to insert pre-made text/content into the body of your email. There are a couple of specific reasons you should use this feature for your signature:
You can have several signatures that you can switch to.
It may not be necessary for everyone, but it may be wise for you to have several signatures that you can switch to depending on the type of email at hand. This is also necessary if you’re like me and manage multiple emails under one account. You certainly don’t need to send a business signature to a personal email receiver. That’s where the Gmail’s’ canned response option is a lifesaver.
Your big signature should only be included once in a thread.
Think about it. Sometimes an email thread could get really long with some email responses only requiring a couple of sentences or even a few words — just like a chat. Imagine a signature being attached to every single response… it could get a bit obnoxious, huh?
Now you may think, “Well, it’s inconvenient to have to manually request my signature in each email.”
I can understand your concern, but it really isn’t that bad. I’ve used the canned response for many years and I prefer it this way. You see, I have the ability to create custom signatures and choose when to show it. So, it’s worth it to manually enter a signature, especially when it only takes 2 clicks of a button.
Set where your signature goes in a string of emails
Gmail has a very useful feature that allows you to make sure your automatic signatures are set before the “–” line. This is very useful so your signatures don’t end up all the way at the bottom of a long email thread.
This is how you use it:
1. Go into Settings of your email and scroll down in the General section.
2. Choose the checkbox “Insert this signature…”
3. See image below.
Bonus Tip #2: Utilize About.me
If you find it very difficult to narrow your signature, here is another suggestion you might find fun: Create an About.me page! Here you can create a sexy, personalized web page that will make it easy for you to share everything about you! You can include all your links, phone numbers, and a picture of your beautiful face. Give decluttering your signature a try and experiment by doing something new, creative, and attractive. You would be marketing yourself much better that way.