Section 2.8

Email Signature Files

In your email software, there should be an option that enables you to create a signature file — in other words, a block of contact information that appears automatically at the bottom of all of your outgoing messages. Although you have a number of aesthetic alternatives, a standard signature file might look something like this:

Figure 6 • Sample Signature File, External Communications

Figure 6 • Sample Signature File, External Communications

Why is a signature file necessary? For one thing, it helps an email appear polished and professional; it is like stationery for electronic messages. In addition, if recipients of a message don’t know you very well, the absence of a signature file can cause confusion as they try to figure out who you are. Finally, you should generally make it as easy as possible for recipients to find you; by including contact information in your standard communications, you enable them to reach you with minimal effort.

Your email software may well allow you to set up a shorter, alternative signature file for internal communications with employees of your firm. Suppose, for example, that Renée Jones from the signature file above is emailing someone in her company’s accounting department. An appropriate signature file for internal use could be:

Figure 7 • Sample Signature File, Internal Communications

Figure 7 • Sample Signature File, Internal Communications

Of course, not every email should have a signature file. Sometimes you may not want people to have your contact information. For example, if you are sending a message asking someone to stop sending you unsolicited email, consider deleting the signature file so that you don’t give the person even more information than he or she already has.

In addition, if you are having an ongoing email dialogue with someone, it is often better — after your initial exchange — to omit the signature file in subsequent messages that accumulate within the same email chain. That way your contact information won’t show up repeatedly within the growing pile of messages.

There are multiple ways to order your contact information. Usually the sender’s name, title, department, company name, and street address appear first, but after that, you have multiple options.

If you like, for example, you can then put phone number, fax number, email address, and website. Or you could put website, email, phone, then fax. Whatever order you choose, it should have an internal logic, and you should carefully proofread every letter and punctuation mark for errors and inconsistencies. In the signature file examples on the previous pages, Tel: doesn’t include a period even though Tel is an abbreviation, but you could also write Tel.: if you prefer. The reason for omitting the period would be purely aesthetic, to make it a closer visual partner for Fax.

Many signature files are far from polished. They may suffer from flaws ranging from inconsistent formatting to editing errors. Here are some things to check for in your own:

  • Is the font consistent?
  • Do you use colors? Unless you are a professional designer or are receiving advice from one, stick to black, as erratic color can make your email message appear unprofessional and distract from the content of your message.
  • Do you include your business title and department below your name? If your firm doesn’t use titles, just put the department.
  • Do you include your physical address and all relevant details, such as suite, room, or floor? If you can’t or don’t want to include your address, that may be fine, but make sure you have a good reason.
  • Is your use of abbreviations consistent and appropriate? You can afford to be sparing with abbreviations in your signature file, especially less familiar ones such as Fl. for Floor or Ste. for Suite. It’s not as though you have to retype the words each time, so where you think it looks better, spell out the word.
  • Do you include your company’s website address? If not, consider adding it.
  • Do you include your telephone and fax numbers, complete with area codes, in a neat, consistent format? Among the various options are:
         (212) 555-0989
  • Do you include a cell phone number? Do not do so unless (ı) you check your messages regularly, (2) you have a professional outgoing greeting, and (3) you are prepared to answer your cell phone in a professional manner, as you might when sitting at your desk. If it is your personal cell phone and you use it primarily for personal calls, you should probably not include your cell number in the signature file. It is generally unprofessional to take a work-related call in a crowded bar.

    You can present the cell number in various ways, including:
         Cell: (917) 555-1987
         Mobile: 917-555-1987

    Normally the cell number would appear after your office number and before the fax, but if your cell phone is the primary way people reach you, you might consider listing it before the office number.
  • Do you include your email address? Although this information is available in the From field, it is helpful to include it in your signature file so that email recipients can quickly cut and paste all of your contact data into their records. Keep in mind that not all recipients use the same email software you do, so even if it takes only a mouse click to add a new contact to your software, the process in theirs might be more complicated. Also, make sure your email address doesn’t contain a typographical error — one of the worst typos you can have! (Suppose an important client uses that address to email you and the message is returned undeliverable. Very embarrassing to you, and very annoying to the client.)
  • Are there any other typos or misspellings?
  • Is the spacing consistent? Do you have any extra or missing spaces between words or around punctuation?
  • Is your capitalization consistent?
  • Do you include favorite personal quotes or sayings? If so, delete them. A business email is not an opportunity to communicate irrelevant information about your own interests or personal philosophy. It may, however, provide an opportunity to promote your firm. If your company has a marketing tag line, it may be appropriate and perhaps even desirable to include it, as long as you have corporate approval.
  • Is the information complete?