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John Hancock takes it to the web

In a quest to provide marketing information to my coworkers, I started doing some research on email signature etiquette.  I was very disappointed to find that almost every article on the subject is an angry tirade with little practical advice.  What’s more, many of them conflict with each other.  So I kept digging and came up with what I think are the keys to an appropriate email signature—presented here in calm, concise language.

Your signature should have 3-4 lines, with no line taking up more than 72 characters.  Here are the first three:

Name
Company and position (for students, university, college, and/or school)
Your preferred point of contact besides email (if applicable)

If you want to include your address, that should make up the fourth line.  But consider how recipients will use this information.  Are you trying to appeal to a local audience?  Do people often send snail mail to you?  Does anyone you email even need to know your location?

Another option is to create multiple email signatures and use a different one depending on the type of email you’re sending.  For example, you may have only your name for intra-office emails and more extensive information for initial contact with potential clients.  Students sending mail to organizations should have different signatures corresponding to the organization and a simple one for non-members, such as professors, advisers, and employers.  For example, in my internship inquiry emails, I don’t list my positions at the bottom of the email because the potential employer has or will receive my resume.  No matter who the recipient is, though, you should be careful with your design.  Plain text is the preferred format as HTML doesn’t always appear as intended; the same goes for colorful type and non-generic fonts.

There are a few stylistic elements that are more a matter of preference than correctness.  You may use a mark such as a double dash or several periods to differentiate your signature from the body of the email.  You may also choose to include a closing, such as “sincerely” or “best wishes,” above your name.  Some people want to include more information, such as a company website or social media info (though the latter isn’t advisable).  In this case, write out the URL instead of relying on a simple hyperlink like “click here.”  However, one item that is never acceptable is a quote.

Here are the signatures I made based on the information I found.

As Intern Emily:

Emily Douglas
Marketing Intern, Shoap Technical Services, LLC
www.shoap.com
730 Peachtree St., Suite 660 | Atlanta, GA

I’m not in the office every day, so I don’t want people calling me.  I do, however, want them to go to the website!

As the girl next to you in accounting:

Emily Douglas
Georgia Institute of Technology College of Management
404.111.0000

There are a few things I considered including but didn’t: my extracurricular involvement, my graduation year, and my favorite Tech-y quote (“Almost certainly, there’s not much to do out there besides build rockets.” –Deech Madhavan).

Please let me know if you found this post helpful, and tell me any questions you have.  And don’t forget to update your signature on your smartphone!

Sources: Smashing Magazine’s “The Art and Science of the Email Signature” by Kat Neville, Sitepoint.com’s “20 Tips for Creating an Effective Email Signature” by Alyssa Gregory, eHow.com’s “Email Signature Etiquette” by Tielle Webb,  “Email Signature Etiquette” by Shelly Palmer (on her self-titled site), and google images/techpin.com

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2 Responses to John Hancock takes it to the web

  1. Helpful. Any suggestions on how to ‘toggle’ between multiple signatures for different types of recipients, per your advice? Specifically, for G-Mail accounts?

  2. Some email providers let you choose for each email from all the signatures you’ve entered, like in a drop-down list. From what I can see on gmail, you can enter only one signature. I suggest writing the longest signature you need and deleting whatever information isn’t applicable to each email.

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