That email I almost sent on the subject of email signatures. 10 September 2012

So, this has been mildly annoying for a while, but the addition of fancy images has pushed it over the edge.

If I already know who we are, and know who you are, DO NOT ADD A SIGNATURE!

Doing so may seem harmless, and good PR, or just seem like the kind of thing you're supposed to do. People do all kinds of stupid things, you shouldn't copy them.

Putting a signature on the bottom of all your emails is like introducing yourself at the start of every sentence.

"Hi I'm Tom, I work at ACME, we make things, here is a picture of my dog. How are you today?"

"Oh, hi Tom, I'm John from ACME, we make things, and here's a picture of my children. I'm fine thanks. Would you like to come over and watch X Files?"

"Hi I'm Tom, I work at ACME, we make things, here is a picture of my dog. I can't tonight, I'm doing some sports, how about tomorrow? This conversation is confidential and may be privileged, if you are ease dropping, please let me know."

"I'm John from ACME, we make things, and here's a picture of my children. Tomorrow is good for me. Please consider the environment before repeating this conversation. Here is a picture of a tree."

"Hi I'm Tom, I work at ACME, we make things, here is a picture of my dog. See you then. This conversation is confidential and may be privileged, if you are ease dropping, please let me know. Why not join our mailing list? My national insurance number is JH 27348 DAJD."

Now compare it to this (for the case where I've known john for some time):

"Hey John, how are you?"

"I'm fine thanks. Would you like to come over and watch X Files?"

"I can't tonight, I'm doing sports, how about tomorrow?"

"Tomorrow is good for me."

"See you then."

Or for the case where John does not know who I am, but I know who john is (why would I email someone if I don't know who they are?)

"Hi I'm Tom, I work at ACME, we make things, here is a picture of my dog. How are you today?"

"I'm fine thanks. Would you like to come over and watch X Files?"

"I can't tonight, I'm doing sports, how about tomorrow?"

"Tomorrow is good for me."

"See you then."

For the record, strangers often invite me to come over and watch X Files. I just have that kind of face.

Anyway, the point of all this, is that putting your signature in a reply does nothing positive, and serves only to make communication harder. If email isn't for communication then what is it for?

Signatures have a purpose, they are for giving a little bit of background as to who you are when introducing yourself. However, they should not be used at the cost of emails ability to communicate your thoughts to another party.

Emails Signatures – Just say no, roughly 90% of the time.

TL;DR

  • Never use a signature in internal mail.
  • Never include your signature more than once in an individual email thread.
  • Ideally, do not have your signature enabled by default. ∆
  • I don't ever really like the X Files that much, but I have that kind of face.

∆ Has anyone ever had that sinking feeling in their stomach, when they suddenly realise they forgot to add a signature. NO. No they have not! Do you ever mock people for sending you email without a signature? No. No one has ever done that, ever… EVER!!!!!!!