I originally wrote this article when I worked in the corporate world. Email signatures were big thing then. I have different opinions about them today, but they are very much still a thing, even in the non-corporate world. I've updated and simplified this post with what makes sense today. And while I have much to say on related subjects (for example, should we even use email signatures?), I've kept this in line with what I originally wrote. Enjoy!
If an email signature should be easy, why do so many people do it so poorly?
Because even though it should be easy (it's just writing a few tidbits) about yourself, finding balance and presenting in a concise manner can make it tricky. So how do we do it?
Your signature should contain at least enough information that the recipient knows who you are and how to contact you.
Note that the very base of this information (your name and email address) is already shared with the recipients before they even get to your signature.
But you might want more than just an email address as a contact method. In today's world there are a dozen or more ways of contacting you. Seriously. Home phone, work phone, cell phone, work email, personal email, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Snapchat, Skype, fax (hey, you never know). Okay, so that's only 11, but you get the point.
What types of content should we have?
Your name should be in your signature (duh!). If you go by a nickname, or your middle name, or some other name, then write your name how you would like to be introduced to someone you don't know. If your name is Michael, but the first thing you say to everyone is, "Call me Mike," then use Mike in your signature.
Note that as a recipient, if someone signs their emails as Michael, never assume they want to be called Mike. It's not cute. It's calling someone by a name you're not sure they want to be called.
Both of these can work in a signature, but they need to have a purpose. If you're emailing as an employee of a company, then you should have the company's name in the signature. If your title gives more information to your recipient(s) about who you are, go ahead and include that, too.
But if your title is stupid, abstract, or abnormally long, maybe consider simplifying, shortening, or dropping it.
This one I hear debate on. Some people want to see an address in your signature because it's easy to find if they need to send you something.
I say your company's address is probably in a dozen other easy-to-find places across the public web, so why add another 3-5 lines to your signature for something that isn't unique to you and isn't hard to find. I'd leave it out.
It depends on your responsibilities, but I see most people using their work phone and cell phone. I would cap it at that. You don't need a direct line and a main company line. And if you're never in the office, just use your mobile phone.
I don't want people calling my personal mobile phone, but I also don't have a desk phone. So I just put my company's main line, and I don't label it. Adding a direct line could be nice for some people who interact on the phone as a main part of their job. But it can be totally distracting to have people calling you directly when you may be able to have calls filtered for you by using a shared line.
If you have more than one phone number, you'll want to label them accordingly. If not, no label is necessary (recipients will assume it's a phone number that can get them to you).
And if fax is a regular part of your day-to-day work, it's fine. If you've never sent a fax in your life, that probably shouldn't be in your signature.
Social media and web links can be tricky these days. I use two guiding principles for this one:
People are capable of googling your company, and many things are easy to find. Consider a few scenarios:
My current company is easy to find, and our social links are on our website. Still, (if I had a choice) I would only include the website address. And frankly, if someone wants to find a social profile of mine, they'll find it. I'm not putting it in an email.
Okay, you've figured out the content you're going to use. Now, how are you going to display it?
The font should be of the same family and size as your email body. I know, not everybody follows this. But when people break it, many more fail than succeed. Also, double check, your company may have a specific font family they want you to use.
Email fonts are simple -- you want something professional and universal. If you don't pick a universal font, then it won't look the same on every email application, and you don't want that.
Look, you're not signing your name on a letter. It's an email. Do not change the font of just your name to make it look like you signed it with some weirdly-consistent script font. And don't put it in a different color.
So, we have potentially a lot of content in the signature, but where your recipient's eye needs to go first is your name. You can do that by bolding your name or even making it a little larger than the rest of the text (the exception to the font rule).
Okay, so you just can't boil down your content. One trick to make it look like less content is to go horizontal with some items. Like this:
twitter | facebook | linkedin
Social media icons are cute and concise, but they do two things we don't want when they are in emails. They can get your email blocked from some servers, meaning your message failed to get to its recipients. This is rare, but does happen. And they are colorful so they immediately draw your attention. You want people to look at your name first, not your SM icons.
So, after all that, we might end up with something like this:
My Position | My Company
(555) 555-5555 | mycompany.com
twitter | facebook | linkedin
Simple, yet professional and informative.
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