Email Signature Etiquette

Posted by The Editors on August 9, 2011

A few weeks ago, a coworker forwarded me an email with a bachelorette party weekend itinerary from the event’s very enthusiastic lead planner. The email’s contents were shocking, for sure, (Do these women have to plan each Skinny Girl Margarita and gift opening?), but what really got me was the email signature of the sender, a lawyer by trade. It included a photo as big as a wallet-sized school picture, and equally as embarrassing. What!? But… Why!?

I’ve ragged on many signatures over the years, but always kind of overlooked them as a component of one’s personal brand. Now that I’m thinking about it, though, the email signature is one of the original online branding tools, after the email address, of course.

As it turns out, a bad email signature can cause quite an impression. When hanging out with a few friends last weekend, someone brought up another lawyer’s signature that landed in his inbox, setting off a conversation about signature etiquette. And I hadn’t even brought it up. 

Email signatures should be kept short and to the point, branded only with your name, necessary contact information, title, organization name, and any relevant links, such as to your website and LinkedIn profile. In other words, avoid the following to protect your personal brand:

  1. Headshots. If I want to know what you look like, I have options: LinkedIn, Facebook, your company or personal websites. A photo makes your signature appear alarmingly big and you vain. Plus, one unfriendly exchange and that nice smile will start looking like a nasty grimace. (It’s amazing what the mind can do.)
  2. Mixed font styles. The ability to select different fonts and colors doesn’t show me that you’re fun and creative. Pick a simple font, no more than two colors, and bold the items you want to call out. Done.
  3. Attachments. The “think before you print” message is a great one—but the little JPEG file that comes with it adds unnecessary weight to my inbox. If you choose to include a graphic, such as your actual signature, a tree, or a logo—use HTML.
  4. Multiple titles and degrees. Don’t treat your email signature as a mini-resume. The point of your title is not to show off all of your credentials; it’s to identify who you are and how to get in touch with you. Leave all those certifications and degrees to other social media outlets.

Now that I’ve shared some do’s and don’ts, tell me: What’s the craziest email signature you’ve ever seen?

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