what should an email signature contain?

A reader writes:

I know you’ve covered what doesn’t go into your email signature–funny colors, weird fonts, religious exhortations, almost any quote of any kind, etc. But from your point of view, what DOES go in? For example, my own mandated signature includes a long line saying “If you have any additional questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to email or call me at [our phone number],” a “Best Regards,” my name, my position, followed by our company name, full mailing address, both phone numbers, fax number, Skype ID(!), a link to our email and the company site, three additional lines about the company, and that long bit about the email being confidential.

I think this is horribly unwieldy, and my boss (who set up the signatures) insists that we delete the entire thing before sending intra-office emails (which is fine by me, frankly). I am of the opinion that a closing, name, position, and possibly phone number and/or company name would be more than sufficient. What are your thoughts? I feel like this may vary by country/region/industry, but is there a basic standard?

Ugh, unwieldy email signatures! Why do they exist?

The ideal email signature is:

name
position
company and/or company website
phone number (optional; varies by context)

And sure, in some contexts, their mailing address or social media links would belong there too.

It’s even fine to add one additional line with a link to something of the sender’s — a link to subscribe to their email list or order their book or whatever.

But multiple phone numbers, Skype, and a fax number? Too much, unless you’re in a context where that stuff is constantly needed. Three lines about the company? Unnecessary and probably unread. And the long email disclaimer that no one pays attention to? There are contexts where the disclaimer isn’t inappropriate (although it’s often used when it doesn’t need to be), but there’s no reason they need to be as long as they often are.

When the signature is longer than the average email, that’s a bad sign.

And you might point out to your boss that the fact that he doesn’t want this particular signature used within the office because it’s so unwieldy is a signal about how much it will be appreciated outside of it.

{ 163 comments… read them below }

  1. Judy

    We have a generator at work to create our signatures, you can edit the output, but they were trying to get a consistent look.

    Wakeen Smith // Senior Engineer, Spout Group
    Office xxx-xxx-xxxx // Cell (if you have one) // Fax
    Chocolate Teapots, Inc // www dot choctea dot com
    123 Main St, Hershey, PA 12345-1224 USA

    NOTICE: blah, blah, if this isn’t for you, don’t read it, blah, lawyer made us do it, blah, blah

    It is nice that we know (mostly) everyone’s has the info we need to contact them.

    1. KellyK

      I really wish the phrase “blah, blah, lawyer made us do it” was actually part of those confidentiality notices.

      1. Sydney Bristow

        Many law firms don’t actually use the confidentiality notices themselves. I think the common exception is tax lawyers, but I’m not sure whether they actually are legally required to include the notice.

        1. Judy

          I’m on a church committee with a lawyer, their firm does mostly corporate law. The emails I get from him have a sentence or two about not taking tax advice to avoid penalties with the IRS, and a sentence or two about this is private, confidential, and privileged information

        2. Cat

          I would love to see an actual legal analysis about the efficacy of those disclaimers. A lot of people just seem to assume they’re a good idea or “it won’t hurt” but I’ve never a real round-up of law and precedent on it.

          1. Useless Disclaimer

            It’s like those annoying IT people online who always say “Warning: I assume no responsibility if your computer explodes because you tried to fix whatever wasn’t working by following my advice.”

            Was that really necessary? Chyeah right. Like anyone is going to track you down and hold you responsible for changes THEY made to their computer. Just leave that little tidbit out. It’s cliche. Doesn’t make a difference either way and completely unnecessary.

            It’s very sad to see what we’ve amounted to when everyone feels they have to disclaim everything to prevent being sued or held responsible by people who constantly exploit the system.

        3. Tax Disclaimer

          Yes, tax lawyers (and I think other tax advisers) are legally required to include that stuff about the message not being tax advice. We even have to certify periodically to the IRS that we have actually included that text in our emails.

          1. De Minimis

            That’s right…it seemed like everyone who worked for my firm had to have it included, even support staff.

          2. Jessa

            I always wondered what you put on it if the information IS actual tax advice (IE a follow up email to a customer, or an answer to a direct question about a specific account.)

      2. De Minimis

        Tax accountants often have one that go on about how the message shouldn’t be considered professional advice and isn’t designed to evade tax law, etc. The bigger firms’ e-mail disclaimers are long enough to where they almost require an attachment.

        1. De Minimis

          Missed Sydney’s post…I think it’s more of a CYA thing, but many will have it set to where it’s attached to all external e-mail. And it usually applies to employees at all levels.

    2. Sydney Bristow

      This is what we have too. I think they are pretty unobtrusive because the font is a little smaller and they are useful at least internally because this is a huge office covering many floors and its usually easiest to glance at the signature for a phone number or assistant’s info. The firm address and fax number is probably not necessary but are used more than you might expect.

      They look like this:
      Name
      Firm Name
      Assistant’s email address
      Office address
      Telephone # | Fax #
      Firm website | My email

    3. Elysian

      I especially like “NOTICE: blah, blah, if this isn’t for you, don’t read it” cause it always comes at the bottom. After you’ve already read it.

    4. A Bug!

      The disclaimers I use and see don’t usually hold themselves out as legally binding. They say some combination of the following:

      We don’t accept service by e-mail; we use e-mail for informal purposes only and it’s your responsibility to ensure proper delivery; this e-mail is intended for its addressed party only and may contain confidential or urgent information; if you receive it in error, please let us know and then destroy your copy.

      Sure, it’s probably not something that’ll save any butts in court if something goes horribly awry, but most people are generally good, and will cooperate if they get an e-mail they’re not supposed to have.

      Also, when I am participating in an e-mail chain I remove all subsequent disclaimers. I actually strip the whole signature except my name, for the most part, after the initial e-mail or my first reply.

  2. Cruciatus

    I have only the things mentioned, although for some emails I send to students I include a riddle. I realize my signature will be ignored by most people, so for the one person who actually looks at it might have fun trying to guess the answer. For months I had “If all 2s are 3s, what is 2 squared?” Just earlier this week I finally had a student respond with the correct answer! I don’t, of course, do this for serious emails or anything. It was more just to see who was paying attention.

      1. Cruciatus

        You should only be worried if you thought the answer was 27. As most adults do when asked this question.

    1. Evan

      The answer to everything is 42.

      Except in this case, when it’s 27.

      Unless that “2” is also replaced, in which case it’s 37.

  3. CAA

    My pet peeve is the confidentiality disclaimer. They hold no legal weight and their main effect is to make long threads hard to read and kill more trees for emails that need to be printed.

    1. MR

      It’s kinda like the Twitter bio disclaimer about how ‘RTs do not equal endorsement.’ It’s just faux CYA stuff that has no actual or practical meaning.

  4. Katie the Fed

    Oh but I love the quotes, graphics, and multiple fonts and colors. We email them around and make fun of them mercilessly! They’re such good entertainment.

    1. Jennifer

      Hah, we are now being FORCED to use a graphic in our signatures “to show our commitment to the new marketing plan.” BARF. Seriously?!

      1. Anonymous

        Except that no good marketing team would recommend them. If they’re embedded in the email, then they end up getting corrupted and looking horrible (especially in Outlook). If they’re a linked image, they risk not getting displayed and disrupting the look of the email.

      2. Crappy Opinion

        The latest gold nugget I read on another site by a so-called “expert” on the issue said never include a quote (because it might offend someone) but always include your latest status update or blog post.

        Chyeah right! Like people are going to care about your crappy opinion about how much better your children are compared to everyone else’s more than they care about some useless quote that might offend them.

    1. mw

      It especially annoys me when government employees have religious tag lines in their official signatures from their government email account. Not surprising in my state (in the South), though.

    2. Elizabeth West

      We’re not allowed to have those in our emails at work. We have a format. Mine is like this:

      Elizabeth West
      My title goes here
      Giant Company Based in Tinytown
      Address so very far from my house
      Stupidville, MO 66666
      555-1212 ext. 123456

      We can only use approved fonts and cannot put any graphics. People do use Comic Sans in their IM, though. I just roll my eyes when I see it.

  5. ExceptionToTheRule

    We have to use little electronic versions of our business cards. They’re not as cute as someone in a position of power thinks they are.

    1. Elysian

      Ugh – anything that actually sends as an attachment (like a picture) annoys me to no end. I want to be able to scan my inbox for “that email that Jane sent sometime in October with the contract attached.” But if every has an attachment on every email as part of their signature, I can’t do that. It drives me nuts.

      1. Sydney Bristow

        The only time I like that is when I’m reviewing a collection of documents that have been loaded into our review software and each attachment counts as its own document. It makes me appear to be more productive than I really am!

      2. AVP

        Or when you choose “save all attachments” and you get 11 of them, 6 of which are logos and social media icons.

  6. Elle D

    My company sets up signatures for everyone and requests that everyone not alter them. They’re pretty straight forward – Name, Title/Department, Phone Number, and then Address and website in small print underneath.

    Our signatures also include our company logo though, which I find kind of annoying. It makes it seem like every email I send or receive (internally) has an attachment, when in fact it’s just the logo. I wish we didn’t have to include this but it’s mandatory.

      1. Elle D

        It makes me insane, especially since I’m a graphic designer. I get tons of emails that contain legitimate attachments, so I constantly have to clear out my inbox because it’s reached capacity. It’s also much harder to search for “that email Jane sent last month with the photos” when every email from Jane looks like it has an attachment.

  7. Anon Y

    We have to include our firm’s logo in our signature line. Which means, bye-bye searching by attachment, since the logo file shows up as an attachment. If your e-mail signatures makes other tools less useful > > > fail.

  8. Contessa

    As someone who relies on email signatures to get contact information to avoid having to send an extra email to ask for it and then wait for the response (which may never come), I like to see:

    Name, (certifications if applicable)
    Title
    Company
    Address
    Phone
    Fax

    You don’t need the email address, it’s already part of the message. Some companies want to put the website in, that’s fine, but it’s not really necessary.

    The confidentiality disclaimer is helpful–if someone keeps an email that came to them accidentally, they can’t say they weren’t told to discard it. (we also have a paragraph about how we don’t give tax advice, which makes our signatures even longer).

    My pet peeves are the company logo and using a table for formatting–they always mess up my copying and pasting of contact info.

    1. Erin

      I agree with Contessa. Sometimes I need to call you or mail you something, and I don’t necessarily have time to track you down by e-mail to ask you for your contact information. Sometimes I’m working on a proposal on which you are a sub, or something similar at 11pm, and I need your contact information for a form I’m filling out. So I love it when I can find it all in a random e-mail . Also, if you have a PhD and prefer to be called “Dr.”, please include that in your signature line, too (e.g., Tiny Tim, PhD). That way I can address you properly.

      +1 about the logos and weird fonts. If it doesn’t appear in a plain text file, I don’t want it in my inbox!

    2. Marmite

      I agree, I want the contact info so I don’t have to follow up to get it. I especially want phone number to be there (fax, not so much since I don’t think I’ve ever sent a fax in my life). Sometimes e-mail address is needed when people e-mail from department mailboxes and I need to reply only to the individual.

      Our automatic company ones include office mailing address, but I’ve removed it from my signature after a couple of people sent random letters to the office expecting me to receive them in a timely manner. That doesn’t happen as I’m only there one week in three or four.

    3. Anonymous

      “You don’t need the email address, it’s already part of the message.”

      It’s often not part of the message if the message is forwarded to another party.

      1. Jennifer

        Yes, Outlook helpfully deletes your predecessor’s e-mail from the entire damn chain. So telling me to please respond to the original person means I have to manually look them up…again. Thanks, Outlook!

      2. Jessa

        Also sometimes if you work email customer service, the responding email is service at teapotcompany dot com, but your email address is myname at teapotcompanyheadoffice dot com and you want the customer to have your direct contact information.

      3. Tax Nerd

        This. My emails often get forwarded around within a client’s company, so I have my email address in my signature, so people can get my email address if they’re six forwards in.

        The stupid tax disclaimers are automatically attached to all external emails when they leave the server. It’s annoying, but I don’t think anyone reads them anymore. Everyone’s learned to let their eyes glaze over.

    4. Colette

      Interestingly, if you use group mailboxes, your personal e-mail address is not part of the message already – which might be the intent, but it’s something to think about when creating your signature.

  9. OP

    We also have two images in our signatures. I just noticed last week.

    To the world, I apologize. To every supplier and vendor and client I email, I apologize. I don’t believe I have EVER sent an email longer than my signature, which is a distressing thought. I could slip some text pornography into it and I doubt anyone would notice.

    Once I have been here for a bit longer, I will bring it up–gently–with my boss!

    1. Elizabeth

      I could slip some text pornography into it and I doubt anyone would notice.

      That would actually be pretty funny.

      I do understand your thought that no one is actually reading your signature. For a month before I left on a 10-day vacation, I had “I will be out of the office from x to y” in bright red letters, and almost no one realized it until I said repeatedly for a week “I will be leaving on x day.”

      1. anonn

        I have my working hours in my email signature as I am part time. Yet still everyone got annoyed when they tried to contact me outside those hours.

    2. OP

      Also as I keep looking, there are three different fonts. And black AND coloured text. And a Twitter link. We have tweeted, like….twice….

      1. Brett

        That is beyond bad signature etiquette and diving into simply bad design. Wonder if a simple design cleanup could do even more than a content cleanup.

      2. Clever Name

        I refuse to include a link to my company’s twitter feed in my email sig. Mostly because what the owner of the company thinks is cute and clever is really just incredibly lame.

    3. FD

      I could slip some text pornography into it and I doubt anyone would notice.

      “The accountant stroked the marketing manager’s hair, her damask tresses as smooth as a chocolate teapot…”

  10. Brett

    All the extra contact methods seem pointless until the massive ice storm hits, your only communications link still up is satellite phone, and the governor wants to talk to you, but no one can find your sat phone number.
    (Okay, maybe that is something specific to our line of business.)

    Really though, those extra numbers seem stupid until you have a disaster on your hands and must reach the person but the only way you have to reach them is email and a phone line that is down.

      1. Laufey

        Their laptop has a battery, and they use a plug-into the wall internet connection through the phone line.

        Theoretically.

      2. LD

        Wasn’t that the point? Even if the number is in the email, with the power out no one can access email, and therefore they cannot get any contact info to use the only communications device that is still working?

        1. Marmite

          Although, I don’t agree that it’s a valid reason for including the number in an e-mail signature, you could theoretically access e-mails from a smartphone or tablet that has battery power and can connect to internet through 3G/4G. (Although, not if those networks are down and satellite phone is the only option).

        2. Cat

          The e-mail is probably downloaded to their smart phone which has 5% battery life left so they can check it as their last act before playing one final round of candy crush.

      3. Brett

        They are in a totally different part of the state. My email sig, incidentally, does not include the sat phone number (but does include three others, and my director’s does include the sat phone).

      4. Chinook

        Getting someone’s contact info off a signature line is useful when you are on a smartphone. I don’t mind the extra info. – it isn’t like it costs you extra.

    1. Marmite

      This is why we keep a list of emergency contact numbers for the people we need to contact in emergency situations.

      I can’t envisage a scenario where I would need to contact someone in an emergency and the only way I’d have of getting their number is from their e-mail signature. If your business, like the one I work for, might genuinely need to function in disaster situations you plan ahead for that not rely on e-mail signatures!

      1. Brett

        We do. We have a paper index of contacts and contact methods.
        Others don’t always plan ahead. And the first place they turn to look for contact info is the internet and old emails. We don’t publish internal contacts like sat phone numbers on public facing internet sites though.

        1. Marmite

          My point is that they should be planning ahead. Better to encourage them to do that rather than to include obscure contact details that are meant for emergency use in e-mail signatures.

  11. Gail L

    I’m actually pretty confused here. Mostly because, who cares? It’s text on a screen that you don’t even look at. In 1% of cases it’s useful and otherwise isn’t doing any harm, assuming it’s not actively flashing and distracting you.

    1. Marmite

      If it’s just text then yes. If it involves pictures or graphics it can take up valuable inbox space if you work for a company, like mine, that has a strict limit on mailbox space. Even as just text it makes e-mail chains unwieldy to skim read through.

    2. Ask a Manager Post author

      It’s a pain in the ass to scroll through when you need something in a message earlier in the chain — especially if the signature appears multiple time. It also sends signals about the culture of the company and/or the person doing the emailing (depending on context).

      1. A Bug!

        Is it really uncommon for people to have a “big” signature and a “small” signature? I use the former for my first e-mail in a given conversation and the latter for subsequent e-mails. Is this weird?

        I do it and several people I e-mail with do this, and it makes a lot of sense to me.

        1. Jamie

          That’s how I have ours set up.

          The main sig (which is as minimalistic and elegant as I could get away with…content dictated by tptb) for first emails is more detailed, but the reply sig which pops ever after is just name and phone number in plain text.

          Big fan of consistent sig tags within a company so ours just pulls info from AD. So when you get a title, name, or extension change changing it in AD updates your sig tag and I don’t have to manually do anything.

          And people can’t get creative and do weird embarrassing stuff to them.

          1. TheSnarkyB

            What is AD?
            Also, is there any way to set up this kind of system in another email format? (i.e. Google Labs and the like?)

            1. Jamie

              Active Directory. I use a pretty awesome 3rd party software called Exclaimer (I have no connection to them except as a customer) which not only has templates which you can edit (or use your own designs – but my design skills…not great).

              I make one sig tag, deploy it through Exchange, and then everyone has the same but it’s populated with everyone’s information in their Outlook.

              So if I want to change the sig tag I do it once – it’s handy.

              What I use is designed to work with Outlook, but I would imagine there are other 3rd party apps out there.

              Nice to see you back, btw :)

        2. Windchime

          This is how I do it, too. If I originate an email, it has:

          Windchime Jones
          Department/title
          External phone/Extension

          For anything that I reply to, it’s:

          ~~Windchime

        3. Chinook

          I was thinking that too – Outlook let’s you set up signatures for initial emails and replies. Why wouldn’t someone do that?

  12. KayDay

    As annoying as the stupid quotes, save the trees, and blah blah lawyer made us do it lines are, I get really hulk-smash-y when necessary information is not included. If you send emails outside of your company/organization/department (for large orgs) please, please, please include:

    Name, including your last name, particularly if your first name is Sarah.
    Title, or something that describes what who you are to the company; so I don’t send the email about travel plans to the CEO and the email about Chocolate Procurement strategy for 2050 to the admin. I’ve actually had this problem a lot.
    Some way to contact you other than by email. This is normally your phone number, but if you prefer carrier pigeon that’s fine too.
    If your company’s website isn’t the same as the domain, it’s really helpful to include that too–most other information, such as actual street address can be found on line.

    1. Judy

      Since I work at a large organization, we have several buildings in this town alone. Need addresses here.

      1. Chinook

        I would actually like it if my coworkers would include their floor (if not their actual room number). My place has 4 floors but there is no way of knowing which floor to find someone on without calling them (which doesn’t work if they are out and I want to drop something at their desk.)

      1. Matt

        As a phone hater, I second that. I mean, I have no choice, since anybody can look me up in the intranet and they have my number, but those phone people always calling in response to emails are a big pet peeve of mine and I definitely don’t want to even further encourage this by including my phone number in my emails …

  13. SJ

    A woman at my company has “Thank you,” as part of her signature, which annoys me. I don’t think every single email necessitates a “thank you.”

    1. A Bug!

      Why not? “Thanks for your attention to my e-mail” is pretty much a universally-applicable sentiment when it comes to e-mail correspondence.

      Do you just feel that including it in the signature renders it less sincere than if she’d spend the additional one second typing it out? Or would you rather she cycle between several equally-meaningless sentiments?

      I recognize that the above paragraph could be read with a snarky tone to it. It’s not my intent. It’s a genuine question: what do you want her to use instead? More importantly, what makes your alternative a better option in your opinion?

    2. AnonK

      I had a coworker who said “Best wishes” in his signature. This may be a good question to send in for AAM’s thoughts but I always found the informality of wishing someone well to be a little off putting. Especially when his non-email persona was piss and vinegar. If you didn’t know it was a signature but knew him, you’d be thinking it was sarcasm.

        1. Ellie H.

          “Best wishes” doesn’t strike me as informal either. To me, informal is “-Ellie.” From that, to me the level of informality to formality goes “Thanks!”, “Thank you!” “Thank you,” “Best,” and then “Best wishes” is to be formal and also slightly nice at the same time.

        2. Elysian

          It’s more formal than my cursory “Best, Elysian.” I usually just ignore whatever people put before their name. Best, Best Wishes, Sincerely, Regards, Respectfully… it’s all just filler.

      1. glennis

        I often use “best regards,” but i type it in when I choose to. I have a colleague who uses “warm regards,” and it’s part of her signature. It’s always funny when she dashes off a message like, “No, he didn’t,” and it’s followed by “warm regards, Megan.”

    3. Emma

      Since working for the fed, I’ve encountered a lot of V/R and /R e-mail enders in lieu of “Best, Emma” or “Regards, Emma.”

      I looked it up and learned it’s military slang for “Very Respectfully and “Respectfully.” It has its own rules, too – V/R is from lower ranked to higher ranked, and /R is from higher to lower vis-a-vis sender/receiver.

      *Until I looked it up, it repeatedly triggered remembrance of the 90s superhero television show “VR Troopers.”

  14. Ellie H.

    Mine is like this (including the line). It’s in a slightly smaller and slightly different fault (Tahoma 10 instead of Calibri 11 which I think is the Outlook default for signatures, unless I decided it and don’t remember)
    _________________________________
    Name

    Company Name
    Specific Office I Work In
    First Line of Address (Street)
    Second Line of Address (City, Zip Code)

    Website

    The “Company name” through address is what you’d put on a mailing envelope. I also have a version that includes my phone number immediately after the address and I put that if I want someone to be able to call me. I deliberately don’t put my position because it is a meaningless type title that doesn’t describe what I do and is in fact slightly misleading – the fact that I work in the office that I work in is, in my opinion, enough to describe my position. But I would be open to arguments to the contrary.

  15. Brett

    One trick for searching for attachments when you company uses a logo in attachments….
    (This is outlook specific, but other email packages can do similar things.)
    Set up your very first rule to copy messages with attachments to an “Attachments” folder. Then set up your second rule to move attachments from inside your company (you can match on sender keywords or match on the company address book) of the exact same size as the company logo back into your inbox. Put all of your other email rules after these two.

    Now you will have an Attachments folders that will contain every email with an attachment while filtering out every email from inside the company with only your company logo as an attachment.

    Search on that folder when you need to find a specific email with an attachment.

    1. Windchime

      A lot of people use logos in their signature, but I’ve never seen them come through as attachments. I understand from reading this thread that they do come through that way for many people; I wonder why they sometimes do and sometimes don’t?

      1. anonn

        If somewhere in the chain its opened as basic text and not HTML format (eg. one of my bosses smart phones does this) then it will convert the image to a file.

  16. Anonymous

    “I deliberately don’t put my position because it is a meaningless type title that doesn’t describe what I do and is in fact slightly misleading – the fact that I work in the office that I work in is, in my opinion, enough to describe my position. But I would be open to arguments to the contrary.”

    This depends on context. If a person is not facing the public, but providing services inside a large organization to other staff and perhaps contractors, details on job role could be very informative.

    More generally your comment relates to a bigger issue – what’s right in communications depends on context, including role (particularly as it related to who you correspond with – is it outsiders, people inside your organization who don’t know you, or people who know you). And also industry. Plus how uniform the signatures need to be across the organization. Realtors typically have much more info than is common in other industries.

    Most of the comments here have been about generic business positions which is OK, but probably off base in some situtations.

    1. Ellie H.

      Yeah – I have thought about this, and I typically send emails to people who know what I do, or who would expect that someone who works in my office would be in charge of this kind of communication or procedure. I have an administrative position in a particular office and given that I’m one of the officials that the office supports, it’s pretty obvious the category of things that are in my purview, if that makes sense whatsoever.
      My title is based on a payment class, we don’t have a ton of bureaucratic-y things, but I guess this is one of them.

    2. glennis

      I feel odd about this. I currently have a job classification that is meaningless HR jargon. “Administrative Staff Assistant.” I previously had a title that was also HR jargon, but meant something more – my public agency department ran like a business, and I was its “Business Administrator.” In my new job, I’d much rather have a “working title” that more helpfully conveyed what I do, which is to issue a certain kind of permit.

      Here’s another question – my public agency often has both permanent employees and what they call “as needed” employees, in the same job classification. The “as needed” people include that phrase in their signature, so you might see:

      Joan Smith
      As needed Senior Administrative Analyst

      as a signature. That just strikes me as weird. Why would she have to sign with her employment status? She’s a Senior AA, she should just put that.

  17. LV

    The general format for signatures at my workplace (all in both official languages, since this is Canada) :

    Name
    Job title
    Division/branch
    Government department
    Street address line 1
    Street address line 2
    Phone number

    People generally stick to that format, although I’ll never forget one HR person’s signature… it was easily 3 times that long and had a wide variety of fonts, font sizes and colours. On top of the general information I outlined above, there was a bright red bolded notice that EMPLOYEES CAN NOW SIGN UP FOR ELECTRONIC PAY STUBS AT [URL] and, in purple italicized Lucida Calligraphy, “My work hours are Monday to Friday, 7:30 AM to 3:30 PM, and my lunch break is from __ to __.” And other things.

    Yes, in both official languages… and on pink and yellow floral email stationery. It was impossible to take her seriously.

    1. A Bug!

      Do you put the English and French side by side or one after the other? For side-by-side I don’t see much issue with it, because it wouldn’t increase the length of the e-mail except for those reading on a mobile phone.

      That other lady’s e-mail formatting sounds pretty terrible. I can’t help but feel a little bit sympathetic to people like that, because I’m sure they have no idea that they’re harming their credibility, and there’s not really any kind way to tell them.

      1. LV

        English and French are side by side, generally separated with / or |. It’s only really an issue if your job title or the name of your division/department/whatever is unusually long.

        1. Chinook

          I always say a | between English and French as a / is often used within the same language. I found the odd, non-government bilingual signature block where they would do one language all together and the second language either right under it or aligned to the right.

          I have always wondered, though, if it is safe to assume that the preferred language of communication is listed first and the translation second. Anybody know the rule of thumb?

          1. glennis

            I don’t know, but I recently learned that the symbol you use here: “a | between English and French ” is called a pipe, which I thought was cool to know.

    2. Anonymous

      hahahahaha I’m glad people like that exist, so I can laugh at them. Purple italicized lucida calligraphy…

      1. LV

        If you’re the same anon who’s been leaving snide replies like that all over this thread… save it. It obviously seems silly to you that some people get annoyed over others’ email signatures, but the amount of time and energy you’ve invested in making jabs at them over that is even sillier.

  18. Anonymous

    As annoying as super long signatures are, not having one is infinitely worse. As an admin who frequently needs to track people down, I will take a bad signature over a nonexistent one any day of the week.

    I work in academia and use of signatures is inconsistent to say the least. I am especially wrathful at other admins who don’t bother to put in a signature–you know how useful that is, why can’t you put in your own?

    Signature should contain at minimum correct name, degrees, titles (in academia they frequently have many), physical address, and phone number IMO.

    1. AB Normal

      And I think the signature should reflect current needs. In my case, as a consultant, I don’t need to include a title, but name, mobile number, and Skype handle are always there because from time to time clients and coworkers need to contact me via these methods, and it’s just more convenient to keep the info in the signature to avoid people having to email me to ask for the information.

      We use Skype a lot (probably because it’s the common denominator among team members from different companies), so we have a good reason to keep ours in our signature.

    2. Liz

      If we’re emailing with someone we know well – or someone who I *know* is a minimalist – it’s not at all uncommon to skip the signature completely. This means we have nice, short, effective emails like “Can you push ticket #123? $Manager needs it done this afternoon.”

      Maybe that’s just an IT thing though…

  19. Jubilance

    My previous company had a specific signature template that couldn’t be altered in any way – I learned this when I set up my signature & then my boss told me I had to use the template. My friends who worked in the financial division of the company also had to include the legal disclaimer at the bottom & I still hate emails from them because of this.

    At my current job, we can pretty much put whatever we want but most of us have very small signatures in the company colors with a teeny tiny pic of the company logo.

    However…I do have a coworker who’s been here 30+yrs who’s signature is in Comic Sans 14pt font. That’s her actual email message font as well…can we talk about distracting?

    1. AnonK

      I know that coworker. I bet she also uses a template with a background image of something silly like a sheet of ruled paper.

  20. Anon

    Signature-related questions:

    1) If I attach a file, should “Attached: Document 1” be before or after my signature?

    2) As an unemployed recent graduate, is it bad to have a signature that lists my degree? As in:

    Sincerely,

    Anon Y. Mous
    Chocolate Teapot Studies, May 2012
    University of StateName, CityName

    1. CaliSusan

      My two cents:

      1. No need to call out an attachment. Most anybody using email today knows how to look for an attachment.

      2. Don’t do that. It’s unnecessary.

      1. MR

        Agreed. The icon is enough to indicate an attachment. Same thing with the degree/year/university. Absolutely not necessary. Alison has covered it before, but I’m too lazy right now to look for a link.

      1. TheSnarkyB

        Any differing opinions if you’re a current student? Especially if it’s an academic email, how would you suggest writing that signature?

        1. Ellie H.

          When I get emails from students, they usually announce in the email what kind of student they are, but in case they don’t I do like it. However one pet peeve is people who write “Doctoral Candidate” when they may not actually be a candidate – there are specific guidelines for candidacy, although, my understanding is that these vary a bit by institution and there is not an official set standard.
          I think it’s fair for academic emails to put “PhD Candidate, English” or whatever in the signature but maybe not for emails sent when the context is predicated on the fact that you’re a student (if that makes any sense).

          1. Sophia

            Yes, I’m a grad student (dissertation stage) and my sig (which I usually don’t use):

            Sophia LAST NAME
            PhD Candidate
            Department
            Hall where department is located
            University name
            City, State, Zip
            Email

      1. Brett

        Okay, my html example died because I forgot it would be interpreted as markup. But the plain text is really a better practice anyway :) (and the plain text example has an example link in it, so it will take a moment to post)

  21. Rebecca

    I use two main email signatures, one for internal messages and one for external messages.

    For external messages, it’s my name, company, work hours (because I deal with people worldwide and I let them know I am in the office on certain days/hours in Eastern Standard Time), phone, fax (yes, some of my customers still use this) and my instant message address.

    For internal messages, and replies to original messages I sent with the long address above, it’s just my name, internal extension, and instant message address.

    It saves a lot of confusion and back and forth – people I communicate with have all my contact info, and I don’t have to reply to the inevitable – what’s your phone number, I need to call, or do you have a fax?

    1. Rebecca

      And I forgot this – if I’m going to be out of the office on vacation for more than a day, I start putting a note at the bottom of both signatures that says “please note: I will be out of the office from X to Y, returning Z” just so people are aware and don’t wait until the last minute the night before day X and drop a bunch of stuff in my lap.

      1. LV

        Just curious, why do you change your signature instead of setting up an auto-reply saying you’re out of the office? I’ve never seen that done before.

        1. Rebecca

          Good question! I set up an auto reply before I leave for vacation, telling everyone “I’m out, please contact Jane”, that type of thing.

          The extra message tag is used for a week or so ahead of time, because I deal with clients and sales people who wait until the very last minute to do things, and too many times I’ve had a large project dropped in my lap literally 15 minutes before I’m ready to walk out the door, and if my backup is also out the day, it’s hard to bring other people up to speed quickly.

          1. LV

            That makes sense! I don’t know why it didn’t occur to me that you could change your signature AND set up an auto-reply :) long week, I guess.

  22. AnonK

    I’m so happy that my current company regulates our email signature. They want any customer or perspective customer to see it as a cohesive message. That means no obnoxious animated gifs (you know who you are!), lines of meaningless certifications, your degrees, an individual department’s tag line, etc. There isn’t much homogenization in my life, but I think this is an appropriate place for it.

  23. CollegeAdmin

    I was wondering about this myself a few weeks ago – I redid my email signature. My title is technically administrative assistant to the Teapot Design office, but I really work as the assistant to the Associate Decorator and the Assistant Polisher, so I added them into my signature so people don’t wonder why this random person is emailing them. It’s two additional lines, but I think it’s worth it, especially when I email folks at other colleges to arrange meetings.

    My signature is (in very small font):

    CollegeAdmin
    Administrative Assistant, Office of Teapot Design
    Assistant to DisorganizedBoss, Associate Decorator
    Assistant to ParanoidBoss, Assistant Polisher
    Women’s College | 123 Sesame Street | SmallTown, MA 99999
    email@college.edu | 999-888-7777

    1. Cassie

      I’ve thought about doing this, but haven’t yet. I just have:

      Cassie, MyJobTitle | MyUniversity and Department
      Phone | Email

      I condensed everything onto two lines to shorten the overall email, but I’m thinking about changing this since a lot of emails are read on phones these days and the lines get wrapped around anyway. We’ll see…

      The previous head of the dept had everyone use a standard format (two column):

      Name Dept
      Title University
      Office Number
      Phone City, State, Zip
      Fax Website
      Email

      It’s not horrendous, but I think it’s too much info – why would you need the City, State and Zip if you don’t even have the street address? And the formatting is kind of wonky depending on which email client you use.

      1. Cassie

        My example above didn’t really work – anyway, it was set up like a business card with the name and contact info on the left side and the address/URL on the right side.

  24. Me

    I have gone years without using a traditional signature file at my current job. I work entirely with internal team members who ought to know me. And if they don’t, we have an online directory that is maintained. :) That said, this thread prompted me to add a standard signature (I copied the one used by my boss). For form’s sake only. Obviously not having one hasn’t impacted my job performance, yet. :)

    I have a signature-related time saving tip that I have used frequently in past jobs:
    When I have had to frequently send out conference call/webex login instructions via email, I created an additional signature (that was not a default signature) with this information in it. That way, rather than copying and pasting into the relevant email content area, I can type out my email content, then with a click or two the conference call information is attached at the bottom. I imagine this could work with any type of static information that you find yourself frequently including in emails. Maybe that’s helpful for others who are in similar situations frequently. :)

  25. Stephanie

    I had a rather unwieldy one at a previous job. It had my name, title, etc as well as company website and physical address. It also contained a plug for a product of ours that apparently wasn’t doing very well with our customers. My signature was often times longer than the
    email.

  26. Cath@VWXYNot?

    I work on a project with a professor who studies frogs, and she has a super adorable ASCII-art frog and tadpoles in her signature. I haven’t used ASCII-art for years (I had a DNA double helix in my signature when I was a grad student, and I used to use an ASCII-art bike during bike to work week), but I love this one!

    Blogged at http://occamstypewriter.org/vwxynot/2012/10/12/a-frog-on-my-blog-is-my-goal-and-its-gotten-a-tee-her/ (before I was actually working with her).

    I think this kind of thing is much more acceptable in academia than it is elsewhere.

      1. Anon

        Depends on the department and university, I’d say.

        And as a student, I have to say I often struggle with what to write my own signature as. Particularly when you’re involved in multiple organizations you’re using the official university’s email for. I just generally leave it out and presume that if I am contacting them, I have already identified myself and the reason in the main email. Headaches galore.

    1. glennis

      Our agency uses photos but it’s optional. I kind of like it, though, since it helps me get to know people I only know by email.

  27. glennis

    Where I work, at a public agency, we are free to create our own signature, BUT we are directed to add an accompanying graphic that promotes a departmental newsletter – it has a tagline that is seasonal and topical, so every few weeks we’re asked to update it. I find that really annoying. But what the hey – they pay me, so whatever they want.

    But I believe Outlook allows you to choose separate signatures for internal network and external messages – so this should help the OP and her boss.

  28. Abuzid

    With respect to disclaimer statement that has been alluded to by someone, a safe way of dealing with this is probably to simply refer to the disclaimer statements by simple url. I use http://www.confidentialityonline.com .

    It’s multilingual… Too bad it supports 3 langages only (english, french and german).

  29. GirlEli

    Wondering if the wonderful readers here could chime in on my dilema. I have a PT assistant who handles a lot of emails and issues for me. Because she’s PT outside contacts will email her saying “let’s chat tomorrow” or “did you get my earlier email???” and it will be a day or two or more until she’s back in the office to respond. The issues aren’t actually time sensitive, but some people start to get nervous if they haven’t received a response in 24 hrs.
    Should I have her include her hours in her signature so people know what to expect? Should she include all my contact info in her sig too?
    On many emails she CCs me and says so in the email, but this doesn’t seem to help. Thoughts?

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