Sunday, July 18, 2010

Desktopless World: Is Your Email Signature Stuck in Desktop Era?

The world is changing to mobile. Are your email signatures and etiquettes keeping pace? I have been emailing my close friends, one friend at a time, on how their email signatures need to evolve and thought a blog post was over due.

But then I came across an excellent post from the GigaOm network by Dave Clarke - The Email Signature: From Efficient to Overkill - but I found that it still missed a key element - the mobile, desktopless world we live in. So, I am going to take creative liberty and improvise his post to share what I consider to be the key to a great email signature, and the etiquettes.

The key is to have a concise, one line email signature that captures how I can contact you and learn about you.

Here is a typical long email signature and yes, I copied it from a real person's email but changed the identity:
Hi Anshu, 
I am following up regarding sale of 7,000 user licenses. Did you get the invoice?
        Linda P. Smith
        Senior Vice President, Boiler Plate Inc.
        799 Bounty Dr, Suite 204, Foster City, CA 94107
        (919) 945 8344 Phone (919) 848 4843 FAX
        Follow me on Twitter @LindaPSmith
        Find me at 
        Blogging at

Yes, this is a real signature. And I have seen longer signatures that include other modes of connectivity. So let's look at what is and is not needed in an email signature.

5 Steps to a Great Email Signature

1. No Email Address: This is an obvious one if you think about it - if I am getting an email from you, I already have your email address. Its redundant, get rid of it.

2. Only One Line: Your goal should be to fit your email signature on one line. This is the most important point (and missing from Dave Clarke's great post). Here is my email signature and how it looks in an email:
Hi Dave,
  Great post on email signatures. Check out my post and let me know what you think about the improvisations I propose.
Anshu Sharma | Vice President | 919.888.4343 (m) |  
Here's why? Most people these days read your email on a mobile device and every additional line you have makes it harder to scroll and read a thread. Remember, this rule applies even if you are not sending the email from a mobile device - its about the recipient and not the sender.

3. No Fax: I agree with Dave, unless you work in a job where you regularly get faxes, leave it out. Your recipient can always call or email you to ask for it as needed.

4. No Address: Again, same as above. No need to include a mailing address unless you expect people to show up at your office. Make sure your website has that information (and that when people search your company's name on Google Maps or Yahoo! Maps, it shows up).

5. Avoid Social Media Overload: We get it that you have a blog, a twitter account, a great resume on LinkedIn and so on and so forth. Pick one URL that is most relevant and publish that in your signature. If you have been watching TV these days, you will notice that Honda and Toyota ask you to visit etc. and not their corporate website. The call to action to visit you must be simplified. You can then let me connect to other media from that website.

As we keep adding channels from LinkedIn to Twitter; and delivery mechanisms from desktops to iPhones to iPads; and message formats from tweets to texts to emails. Its upto us to help each other maintain a semblance of inbox sanity. A clear concise signature and a clear concise subject line are the first two steps in that direction.


SHALINI said...

I agree. I always wonder why people have signatures which are even longer than most emails they send out.

JP Seabury said...


JP Seabury | Force Monkey |

Anonymous said...

I disagree about omitting the email address. If your message is buried in a thread, and any client along the way included your name instead of email, then your email is lost to the latest recipient.

I run into this annoyance all the time when clients forward emails from vendors, and can't easily follow up.

Bryan B. said...

I agree, with one exception: I include my email address as in my experience it tends to gets stripped out with multiple forwards and/or replies. (Maybe this is just an Outlook issue.)

Unknown said...

@Shalini - Thanks

@JP - Thanks.

I got feedback that email is actually useful to have since many email clients remove email addresses. So I leave that upto the reader.

CK1 said...

What about company policy that forces us to add loads of disclaimers, adresses and titles?

Is there a discussion happening in the CI staffs around the world?

CK1 said...

What about company policy that forces us to add disclaimer, titles and more?

Do the CI-teams discuss this? Speak up here!

Sitikantha said...

Anshu, I enjoy reading your blogs. re: this blog, I somewhat agree with your point. But I was debating about address. Some times it helps setting up face to face meetings. It just avoids one more email to ask about the location. Well, the time will come when we will meet in the virtual world.

Unknown said...

nice one buddy...and the comments add super value...especially the thing about importance of email IDs in the signature...request permission to include this blog as an article in BenefIT with a slight modification--a box on why email ID might need to be added