Email Signatures

Here is my pet peeve: stupid emails signatures. How do you know if your emails signature is stupid? I will explain below. First of all, here is what a non-stupid, useful email signature should look like. For unprofessional email it should include:

  1. The — separator
  2. Your full name
  3. Your job title
  4. Company Name (and possibly URL)
  5. Your phone and fax number
  6. Mailing address (only if needed)

Nothing else. Your personal emails should be even more succinct:

  1. The — separator
  2. Your Name/Nickname
  3. Your URL and possibly IM
  4. Optional tag line or short quote

Short and sweet. That’s how a sig should be. What not to put in there? Here is a list of cringe-worthy abuses of the signature field:

HTML Signatures

Everyone knows that a signature in bright red 24 point Impact font is at least 7 times better than a normal signature! And, hell – let’s also throw in a mug shot, some sort of a banner and a company logo. Why not, right? There is nothing wrong in making your email look like a post on some tacky message board.

You don’t need the colors, you don’t need images in your email. It looks stupid when a polite an professionally sounding email is followed by some loud, brightly colored, blinking, scrolling monstrosity.

Also, you definitely don’t need hyperlinks. Most email clients will automatically “linkify” text that starts with http:// so there is no need for you to include unnecessary HTML tags. Besides, your domain name should be short and easy to remember – especially if you are a company. If the URL in your sig is so long and complex it needs to be linked, you are doing something wrong.

HTML signatures are like electronic diarrhea. There should be a fine for sending one of those.

Confidentiality Disclaimer

Ok, fess up – who has one of these gems in their signature:

Notice of Confidentiality: The information that is included or attached in this electronic transmission (E-Mail) may contain confidential and/or privileged information and is intended for only the person or entity to which it is addressed. Any unauthorized review, dissemination, disclosure, reproduction, distribution or other use of, or taking any action in reliance upon the contents of this information is prohibited. If you believe that you have received this message in error, please notify the sender immediately by reply transmission and delete the message without copying or disclosing it. Thank you.

This blurb bears no legal weight. You can’t enforce it, and you can’t expect people to follow it. Notifying you that you just sent me some confidential documents is strictly common courtesy – not a legal obligation. This silly disclaimer simply tries to convince the reader that he might somehow be co-responsible for senders security blunders. It’s equivalent to for example something like this:

By reading this sentence you agree to paypal Luke the exact sum of $5 in the next 15 minute. The sentence above is a valid legal contract. Breaching the contract carries a severe legal penalty

I’m expecting to see the cash rolling in within 15 minutes from the first hit. I will be checking the server logs kids – I know your IP, and I will subopena the shit out of your puny ISP if I don’t get my $5 from you. So get on it!

I probably should also mention that email is not private and confidential in any way. It can be read by anyone with a packet sniffer at any point during the transmission. Emails is equivalent to passing a folded notebook sheet to your friend in the 2nd row during the math class. Anyone can peek inside, and chances are that the teacher might notice it, snag it before it reaches the destination.

Here is a hint: encryption is 100% more effective than a disclaimer. If it’s confidential, encrypt it.

Oh, and cry me a river Mr. and Ms. “but this is a company policy where I work”. Sorry but institutionalizing something stupid doesn’t make it smart. It just makes it sad. But it is still a waste of space, bandwidth and an annoyance to the reader.

Email Address in the Signature

Hello. Welcome to the internet. I hope you are enjoying this exciting technology called e-mail (which stands for electronic mail). One of the great features of e-mail is that it automatically sends a Reply To address with your message. The recipient will see it on their scree, and when they hit the Reply button it will automatically address the message to you.

Get on with the program. Putting your email address in the email signature is redundant and makes you look like a fucking n00b.

Long Quotations

There are two ways to abuse this. Some people go for a single, really long, boring quote – like a poem or a whole paragraph of some bullshit that no one cares about. You want to quote your favorite author/poet? Do it on your own blog. No one needs to download and stare that quote every freaking time you send an email.

Other people go for a bucket load of random one liner quotes from various famous people. There is always some obligatory Einstein quote, and perhaps few lines from influential writers and philosophers. Cause, you know – if you put bunch of quotes by known people in your sig someone may thing you are a fucking intellectual and you actually read their works instead of going to some crappy “Famous Quotes and Trivia” website and stocking up on them.

A short one-liner is acceptable, but please, please do not pick one of those 50 or so famous quotes that everyone uses. The rule of thumb is: if you have ever seen it used as a senior quote in a high school yearbook, you should definitely not use it in your email. Also, if it’s more than one sentence, it is to long.

Did I mention Images?

I know that the HTML entry already covered this, but I cannot emphasize this enough. Do not put logos and banners in your sig. It’s tacky, ugly and unprofessional. Do not do it!

I’m sorry but whenever I get an email with a brief message like “Call me ASAP!” followed by 3 printed pages of signature text I want to scream. It’s stupid.

So how about you? What annoys you in the email signatures of your peers and colleagues?

[tags]email signatures, email, signature, sig, quote, tagline[/tags]

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27 Responses to Email Signatures

  1. Starhawk UNITED STATES Mozilla Ubuntu Linux says:

    Nothing annoys me in email signatures because i don’t pay any attention to it ;) And btw I hope ya not waiting on that $5 I’m supposed to send ya because it might be a while. lmao

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  2. Jake UNITED STATES Mozilla Firefox Linux says:

    I agree with most of your points, except for one thing: I have my e-mail address in my signature. I put this for a few reasons:

    1. I have nothing else to put besides my name.
    2. Most of the people I email refuse to use the reply feature, so the one time I did take it out, I got a call from my grandfather asking me how to send me and email since he couldn’t click it. I try to show them…
    3. Occasionally I send from other e-mail services, like when G-Mail is blocked, so I just hope people use that since I can’t set the reply from.

    I know they’re lame reasons, but I’ve had the same signature for most of when I’ve used e-mail.

    First Last
    foo@bar.tld

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  3. FlashGordon BELGIUM Mozilla Firefox Windows says:

    Coincedentially, I have just made a blogpost on that issue today. It’s in dutch, but don’t worry, you’ll understand :-)

    http://gordon.martensonline.be/blog/2007/09/03/oh-lord/

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  4. Pingback: WEB-KID » » Terminally Incoherent: Email Signatures GERMANY WordPress

  5. Ricardo INDIA Mozilla Firefox Windows says:

    I really hate those quotes and flashy html signatures… It’s even worse when the content of the e-mail is some sort of “cute ppt” crap. Seriously, as you said, there should be a way to fine those people.

    Besides that, I don’t care about signatures either. The company’s name and site I can get from the e-mails domain and I usually have the sender’s phone or I don’t need it; and the phone is usually on the web site anyway…

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  6. Luke Maciak UNITED STATES Mozilla Firefox Windows says:

    @Starhawk – true but sometimes sigs have useful info – like the phone number and etc. So sometimes you want to look at them, and then you get annoyed.

    @Jake – oh wow…. I actually never met a person who did not know how to use the reply feature. Oh well, I guess you are excused for having the email in the sig.

    On the other hand, most email clients let you set the reply-to address to be different from the “from” address without any problems. Hell, even squirelmail does it.

    @Flash – I can’t read the text, but holly shit – look at the ASCII art on that one. LOL Someone had way to much time on their hands. :)

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  7. Macuyiko BELGIUM Mozilla Firefox Windows says:

    Well said. Especially the disclaimers piss me off too. When someone I know sends me an email from their work with such a horrid text at the bottom, I always copypaste the disclaimer and put it in my reply together with a lot more junk writting in legalese. Next time they answer they’ll often take the time to delete the disclaimers.

    @Flash: that’s just… awful :D.

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  8. Craig Betts UNITED STATES Mozilla Firefox Mac OS Terminalist says:

    I just hate people that put their email address in the signature . . .

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  9. vacri AUSTRALIA Mozilla Firefox Windows says:

    Sorry, Luke… I couldn’t find your paypal button. Please don’t sue!

    Seriously, though – email addresses in signatures do serve a role. Sure, you can hit reply and get it to the same person. But if you hit forward and send it to someone else and you filter out email addresses (‘undisclosed recipients’), it’s a way for the original poster’s email address to stay with the message. I’ve had support emails mangled from being bounced around several staff before it got to me, and the only method of contacting the actual customer was the email address in the signature. As a single line in the body of the message, it doesn’t take up much space, and is independent of the metadata.

    But I’ll join your crusade against the “three colours, two fonts, five point sizes” signatures *vacri stares balefully at marketing manager*

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  10. Luke Maciak UNITED STATES Mozilla Firefox Windows says:

    Funny how marketing people are always the ones with the most awful, ugly and annoying emails signatures. lol

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  11. Matt` UNITED KINGDOM Mozilla Firefox Windows Terminalist says:

    Pisses me off that certain popular webmail providers will automatically put an advert for their services in your signature.

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  12. Luke Maciak UNITED STATES Mozilla Firefox Ubuntu Linux says:

    [quote comment=”6044″]Pisses me off that certain popular webmail providers will automatically put an advert for their services in your signature.[/quote]

    Yeah, I hate when they do that. I no longer use any service that injects advertisements to your email.

    Btw, I once used a cheapo ($9/mo) dialup which would inject ads into all emails sent via their SMTP server, and then block outbound traffic on ports 25 and 587 so you couldn’t really use any alternatives. Fucking evil. I think they went out of business few months after I canceled my account.

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  13. Teague UNITED STATES Internet Explorer Windows says:

    I gotta ditto what vacri said about the email address in the signature.
    As for the disclaimers: I work for an engineering firm, and most of my email traffic is with other such firms, law firms, title agencies, etc. who ALL use some form of disclaimer like that. By the time I print out an email “conversation” that’s gone back and forth several times, it’s like 2 pages of the emails with about 5-6 pages of nothing but stacked disclaimers at the end. Hilarious!

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  14. Luke Maciak UNITED STATES Mozilla Firefox Ubuntu Linux says:

    See, the email disclaimers are killing trees!

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  15. James Heaver UNITED KINGDOM Mozilla Firefox Windows says:

    In the UK it is a legal requirement for Company Registration numebrs to be included in all bussiness emails – for the avoidance of doubt most companies insert it into all emails.

    So thats another acceptable piece of information to be included.

    The worst legalise signature I’ve ever seen is the following (the users had no control over this, and I have not touched the formatting except to add dots on blank lines so they are preserved in the comment)

    This email originates from AXA Services Limited (reg. no. 446043) which is a service company for AXA UK plc (reg. no. 2937724) and the following companies within the AXA UK plc Group:
    .
    .
    .
    .
    .
    AXA Insurance Plc (reg. no. 932111)
    .
    .
    .
    AXA Insurance UK Plc (reg. no. 78950)
    .
    .
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    AXA General Insurance Limited (reg. no. 141885)
    .
    .
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    All of the above mentioned companies are registered in England and have their registered office at 5 Old Broad Street, London EC2N 1AD, England.
    .
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    AXA Insurance UK plc is authorised and regulated by the Financial Services Authority.
    .
    .
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    .
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    This message and any files transmitted with it are confidential and intended solely for the individual or entity to whom they are addressed. If you have received this in error, you should not disseminate or copy this email. Please notify the sender immediately and delete this email from your system.
    .
    .
    .
    .
    .
    .
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    Please also note that any opinions presented in this email are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The AXA UK Plc Group.
    .
    .
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    Email transmission cannot be guaranteed to be secure, or error free as information could be intercepted, corrupted, lost, destroyed, late in arriving or incomplete as a result of the transmission process. The sender therefore does not accept liability for any errors or omissions in the contents of this message which arise as a result of email transmission.
    .
    .
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    .
    .
    .
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    Finally, the recipient should check this email and any attachments for viruses. The AXA UK Plc Group accept no liability for any damage caused by any virus transmitted by this email.

    This went out on every email sent by that company.
    Thankfully they’ve now improved it by removing all the empty lines.

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  16. Luke Maciak UNITED STATES Mozilla Firefox Ubuntu Linux says:

    Oh wow… Imagine how that “call me ASAP” email would look with this 5 page disclaimer. lol

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  17. Swamy UNITED STATES Mozilla Firefox Mac OS says:

    I agree with Vacri. You should include your email address in your signature line, given the issue with email forwarding. Also many email clients don’t display the sender’s email address in the email, just the sender’s name. If you’re trying to copy the sender’s email into another database, like your phone, this can be annoying.

    I think quotes should be banned.

    A simple company logo is acceptable.

    Disclaimers do serve a purpose. They might dissuade someone from forwarding your email to one of your enemies. Agree that it has no legal weight.

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  18. Luke Maciak UNITED STATES Mozilla Firefox Windows Terminalist says:

    @Swamy: Ok, I’ll give on the email thing. It’s not so bad I guess.

    Company logo though – no! Unprofessional! If you include an image in your sig your email is automatically sent as HTML or worse (shudder) a word attachment. This means it will either look like crap in Mutt/Pine and Kmail or in worse case scenario will force me to:

    1. Download the .dat attachment file
    2. Extract it using ktnef or similar tool
    3. Open your email in Open Office
    4. Go back to my email client to reply

    Ugh! It’s just inconsiderate, and don’t say “get a better email client” because this is precisely the attitude of Outlook users which prompted this post.

    Also I have yet to see anyone going “Oh no! I can’t forward you this email because it has a disclaimer”. To dissuade someone from forwarding the email to my enemies, that someone would first have to read the disclaimer. And I can guarantee you that 99.99999% of people stop reading as soon as they hit that “NOTICE OF CONFIDENTIALITY” heading. To me this is basically an End of File indicator. :)

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  19. Jake UNITED STATES Konqueror Ubuntu Linux says:

    @Luke Maciak: KMail lets you easily switch to HTML mode for an email. Do you have this disabled? I find this nice, especially for Hotmail emails. Hotmail can’t even keep line breaks when it converts to text format.

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  20. Luke Maciak UNITED STATES Mozilla Firefox Windows Terminalist says:

    @Jake: Yeah, I keep it disabled on purpose – mainly so that I don’t have to see the 8 color signatures.

    Kmail shows me a box on top of the email which says “to view the HTML click here” and then “to display stupid images click here, but I wouldn’t bother if I were you”.

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  21. Jake UNITED STATES Konqueror Ubuntu Linux says:

    @Luke Maciak: No, I have it display text mode first, if available, and then HTML mode. You can switch in the description box below the emaill. The rendering works fairly well for HTML emails, or at least for some of the newsletter I still takes.

    I love Kontact and K-Mail. =)

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  22. Luke Maciak UNITED STATES Mozilla Firefox Windows Terminalist says:

    @Jake: Yeah, perhaps I should do that. :)

    The best are the emails with mangled HTML which just cannot be rendered properly in KMail. I don’t know which client produces those but I get them every once in a while and they suck. :P

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  23. Pedro CANADA Mozilla Firefox Windows says:

    Yeah my company inserted their confidentiality thing in the bottom of my e-mails, quite the annoyance!

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  24. Mike UNITED STATES Internet Explorer Windows says:

    Great rant, found it when Googling ‘stupid email signatures’ to prove a point to my controller. As many have said, email address in signature is a good thing when dealing with forwarded emails. I can’t tell you how many business emails I have been forwarded that required a reply to the original sender only for me to have a name only in the email body.

    Down with stupid signatures!

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  25. AusSteelMan AUSTRALIA Internet Explorer Windows says:

    I can’t believe no-one has even touched on the MOST rediculous email sig habit. Including a sig over and over on every reply of the email trail – especially on an internal email. If you must have a sig, set the setting to not include sig on replies and forwards etc by default. If you do need it on a forward, just manually enter it.

    These offenders are the biggest wankers of all. I don’t need to know the phone, fax, email, fav quote, logo, save paper bullshit from a person I have been working with for over 10 years – at all – let alone on every reply.

    BTW, yes I know this is an old posting, even the last comment is over a year old, but the topic got me going

    End rant
    ASM

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  26. David Bridge UNITED KINGDOM Mozilla Firefox Windows says:

    @ Craig Betts:

    Guys, get over it already. Whi gives a shit what someone else puts in their signature. Its their fucking signature isn’t it?

    ima@hotmail.com

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  27. Tom AUSTRALIA Google Chrome Windows says:

    *BE GREEN AND READ FROM THE SCREEN*

    Nuff said.

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