Do you ever really look at people's e-mail signatures? I don't usually, but I was looking for contact information for a colleague recently, which led me to scrutinize her sig. It was a museum of 20th century communications: The street-mail address and fax number was in there, but no instant-message ID or Skype account.
That got me to thinking about e-mail signatures, and I started browsing my in-box looking at how people signed their mail. I've made the following observations:
Important people don't bother with e-mail sigs.
Your e-mail signature reflects how powerful you are. If you were profiled on 60 Minutes, you don't need no steenkin' e-mail signature.
The primary purpose of an e-mail sig is to let people know who you are and how to contact you. If you're really, really important, your e-mail recipients had better already know that.
If you're a billionaire, you write your e-mail entirely in lower-case and sign it with the one-syllable nickname you had in prep school:
get on this right away. biff
The longer your e-mail signature, the lower down the food chain you are.
Some people put a whole novel in their sig:
Their full name, including "Jr." or "Sr."
Job title, which generally includes both the words "deputy" and assistant.
Street-mail address with mail stop.
Business phone number, with different versions for people dialing from the internal corporate PBX vs. people dialing from outside.
E-mail address. 'Cuz it's not like it's in the "From:" line of every e-mail or anything.
And finish it off with an inspirational quote from Battlestar Galactica.
If that's a description of your signature, then you're a flunky. Time for a Starbucks run, Commander Starbuck.
Marketing people have company slogans in their e-mail.
SiteProNews, a Web magazine for Webmasters, says that's a great idea, arguing that your e-mail sig should be a mini-advertisement for your company.
Some people include sign-offs like "Cheers!" and "Thanks!" and "Best!"; others don't bother.
I never gave that one any thought until the New York Times analyzed sign-offs and determined that shorter sign-offs are tantamount to brushoffs:
Chad Troutwine, an entrepreneur in Malibu, Calif., was negotiating a commercial lease earlier this year for a building he owns in the Midwest. Though talks began well, they soon grew rocky. The telltale sign that things had truly devolved? The sign-offs on the e-mail exchanges with his prospective tenant.
"As negotiations started to break down, the sign-offs started to get decidedly shorter and cooler," Mr. Troutwine recalled. "In the beginning it was like, 'I look forward to speaking with you soon' and 'Warmest regards,' and by the end it was just 'Best.' " The deal was eventually completed, but Mr. Troutwine still felt as if he had been snubbed.
The blog Lifehacker followed that up with an interesting discussion.
Apparently, sign-offs are a complex, secret code which I've been oblivious to:
I use "cheers" usually. I hate "Yours Truly", as it's usually used in the U.S. to mean yourself, and sounds really wrong in a letter. "Yours, Sincerely" for a formal letter when you've put their name at the top. "Yours, Faithfully" is for when you've put "Dear Sir/Madam" or whatever.
I suspect there's a missing word in the phrase "usually used in the U.S. to mean yourself," and the missing word starts with "F."
This is something else for me to feel self-conscious about. Thanks, New York Times. Thanks, Lifehacker.
Some people's signatures are way too long.
One of my colleagues -- actually, one of my favorite people in this company, so I'll avoid naming him here -- has a twenty-one line e-mail signature, which includes:
- his name
- Street-mail address
- Three instant message IDs
- URLs for two sites he edits
- Second Life avatar name
- Name of the location of his office in Second Life
- And the office's Second Life co-ordinates, or "SLURL."
Contrary to my earlier observation, this person is actually not a flunky; he has an important position. Wish somebody could get him to slim down his 800-pound e-mail signature.
This is my e-mail signature:
Mitch Wagner * Executive Editor * InformationWeek.com * +1 (213) 514-5597
AIM: mwagner4 * MSN Messenger: firstname.lastname@example.org * Google Talk: email@example.com * Second Life: Ziggy Figaro * Skype: MITCH.WAGNER
My InformationWeek articles and blogs: http://www.delicio.us/mwagner/ByMitchWagner
I'm thinking about getting rid of my job title. Nobody knows what an "executive editor" does. And the second URL is one too many.
What should people put in their e-mail signatures? What do you have in yours?