A signature is a block of text or an image that is generated automatically and appears at the end of an electronic message such as an email or a post in a forum.
If you have your email client set up to automatically append your name, email address, and phone number to every new email you send, you are already using a signature. Signatures, sometimes called signature blocks or sigs, aren't limited to just email. Many other web applications, such as forums, include support for signatures.
Depending on the setting in which they are used, signatures serve different purposes. When appended to a business email, signatures typically provide full contact details, and may include an address, phone and fax numbers, and a website URL. Signatures attached to personal emails are usually more informal, and may include just the senders name, and personal touches such as a favorite saying. In public forums, signatures are often used to enhance the users personality on the forum, and often include animated images (GIFs), jokes, sayings, quotes, and ideological statements.
The key is to craft a signature that is useful and appropriate for the setting in which it is used.
Frequently Asked Questions
Do I need to have an e-mail signature?
It isn't necessary to append a signature to your personal emails. However, for your professional email, it is important to include a carefully-crafted signature. If someone you have emailed needs to get in touch with you, your email signature is typically the first place they will look for contact details. Make it easy on them and use your signature to let them know the best ways to get in touch with you.
What types of information should I included in my email signature at work?
The answer will vary depending on the industry your are in and your role within your organization.
- First, check with your employer and make sure that the signature you use meets their guidelines.
- Second, take a look around the industry. If members of your industry consistently provide a phone number in their email signature, it's a good bet they expect you to do the same.
- Third, be sure to include your preferred method of contact. For example, if you'd rather people call your cell phone, don't include your office phone number.
- Fourth, provide more than one method of contact. Not everyone likes to use the phone. Consider adding another method of contact that you check regularly, such as your Twitter username.
- Fifth, type out your signature. Don't use an image. If you do use an image you're running the risk that the recipients software will remove the image.
- Sixth, keep it simple. Don't go overboard by providing every one of your social media profiles, phone numbers, and email addresses. List two or three of the best ways for others to contact you and leave it at that.
- Seventh, remember that about half of the recipients of your email will read it on a mobile device. Use a readable font in a size between 11 and 14 pt.
- Eighth, don't be afraid to show a little (but not too much) personality. If you want to inject some life into your email signature, do so with the sign-off. Rather than “Best regards” or “Thank you” pick a sign-off that is relevant to your message and reflects your personality. Consider signing off with “Eagerly anticipating your reply” if applicable, or “Looking forward to seeing you” for a meeting confirmation email.
What types of things should I avoid including in my email signature at work?
Just as there are things you should include in your signature, there are also things you definitely should not include.
- Don't use an image. Some corporate email systems are configured to block images, or some receipients may have taken the steps to manually block images.
- Show some personality, but keep it professional at the same time by avoiding potentially off-putting quotes and ideological statements.
- Don't skip the sign-off or use the same sign-off for every email, it's an opportunity to put your message in context.
- Format your signature with mobile email users in mind and select fonts that are easy to read.
Are legal notices included in an email signature a good idea?
Your company may have a policy about including a legal notice in your email signature. If they do have this policy, go ahead and include it. However, companies that continue to perpetuate this policy are a bit behind the times. The truth is that disclaimers and notices attached to every email you send, and located below your signature are probably not legally binding. In order for a disclaimer to carry weight in a court of law, it really needs to appear at the very top of the email and to be directly related to the content of the email.
It's best to reserve formally-worded disclaimers and notices for the times when they are actually needed, and to include them at the top of the email message in those cases. For everyday emailing, skip the disclaimer.