Email signatures ostensibly make your communiqués look like they’re wearing a nice suit, but really, it’s just an extra part of the email that we can’t help but read. No one likes to read more emails than they have to.
You may have seen them embedded at the bottom of an incoming email like a business card you didn’t ask for. Sometimes they feature contact information, sometimes there’s also a website URL and logo, and sometimes email signatures are longer than the email itself, telling you the whole journey of that person and their email, with a motivational quote or company slogan, a Hallmark-type picture, and something else that thankfully doesn’t load.
People with elaborate email signatures are the same creatures who write their names in books and stay on the phone with pollsters. They’re actually happy to receive a label maker as a gift. And while a long email signature for a business email is somewhat forgivable, a long email signature on a personal email address means the sender is probably crazy. Run!
Are Email Signatures Really Necessary?
Email signatures are nothing new. Before them, we had business cards and sweaty handshakes and those serfs who would announce the arrival of a king. The question is: Should you have one?
This depends on whether the person receiving your email needs to see all that crap. If you’re in some form of marketing and doing outreach to other companies for service-based reasons, it’s useful. Here an email signature can help establish brand recognition rather quickly, and conveys information about who you are and what you do in a brief, subtle way, so you don’t have to force it into the body of the email like a door-to-door salesman.
Many people will often just look at your last email to them instead of keeping some sort of address book, so the signature acts as a quick reminder of whatever it is you do.
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But it’s best to think of email signatures as space that you’re renting in the recipient’s email box. Like the refrigerator in the breakroom at work, you don’t want to take up too much real estate. Long business email signatures can look desperate, and the ones the size of novels are often a sign — or at least viewed as a sign — that you’re low on the totem pole at the company. That’s why Mark Zuckerberg’s early business card only said, “I’m CEO, Bitch.”
Perhaps this is all because the long email signature feels like something you do when you’re new at your career and trying too hard to seek affirmation and appear professional. It ends up looking like a dumb bumper sticker or a poster taped to a dorm room wall. I’m sure I had one when I began sending emails I mistakenly thought mattered.
But as you mature and actually do things, you realize it’s barely necessary and chuckle a bit at the people who still have a long one.
And as you may have noticed, when you’re emailing back and forth with someone who has a long email signature, it clogs up the whole chain and comes off like a radio DJ doing 20 station IDs in a row.
Enough With the Quotes
Basic contact information will suffice, and it’s ideal to stay away from quotes altogether. No inspirational quotes, no mottos, no mantras, no slogans–they can come off as incredibly corny and may only inspire people to avoid doing business with you again.
Many people somehow manage the strength to make it through their own lives without some motto or mantra to guide them, and they certainly don’t need to hear the sender’s quote from Gandhi or whatever Bartlett line they stole. If you wouldn’t tattoo it on your body, don’t put it in your email signature.
Feel free to announce yourself briefly in an email signature like a father escorting his daughter into the women’s restroom. But otherwise, don’t linger and let your work and words above speak for themselves.
Chason GordonWriter/Editor at How-To Geek“Be the change you want to be.”“Opportunities don’t happen, you create them.”“Live your passion.”