How to Be Better at Email
The dos and don'ts of digital correspondence in 2017.
Email signatures are as varied and unpredictable as the people who craft them. Some are smart, professional and tidy while others are big, busy and bordering on being considered digital brochures. More than a few try to be pithy or original but rarely succeed. Of course, sometimes your email signature is a matter of company policy and the contents are not up to you, but when you have an opportunity to craft your own, make sure you do so with care. Because these digital sign-offs say a lot about the person sending them. Far too many are overdone—an explosion of links, logos and, cruelly, fax numbers and repetitive email addresses. Here's all you need (and plenty you don't).
If we've made it to the bottom of your email, all the way to your signature, it's because we're looking for information. Your phone number or your company's website. Not an inspirational quote, not a link to your latest blog post and certainly not a reminder to "consider the trees" before printing this email. (Who prints emails?!)
Limit yourself to no more than four lines of text. Don't overthink it. All you need is the information that would typically be found on a business card: Your name, possibly a job title and your company name (linked to the website) and your phone number. If you tend to have things mailed to you, then you could include your address as well.
We know it feels like it should be with your other information, but it's unnecessary and redundant. In almost any email client or browser-based program, hovering your mouse over the sender's name shows the address, unless it's already displayed. Plus, you don't need to grab an email address from someone's signature to write back—you simply hit reply.
For most people, a standard text-based signature is absolutely fine. Nothing more needed. But for those in sales, or perhaps those just starting out their career looking to make connections and network, consider personalizing your email signature with integrated social buttons and maybe even a small headshot to subtlety stand out from the crowd. People are hardwired to respond to and remember faces. Use an HTML signature generator like Htmlsig or NewOldStamp to make a compact and actionable signature.
If you're constantly traveling or out of the office for work and type most of your emails with your thumbs from the back of a car or at an airport's departure gate, then you may need a disclaimer. Stanford researchers actually found that sloppy or misspelled emails were still considered credible only when sent with some type of "Sent from my iPhone" signature. And if you're the creative type, consider personalizing it, but keep it self-deprecating. Think more along the lines of "Sent from mobile device, all errors self-inflicted" or "Typed with big thumbs on a small phone" instead of "Delivered by carrier pigeon."