20 Tips for Creating an Effective Email Signature

This article was written in 2009 and remains one of our most popular posts. If you’re keen to learn more on this subject, you may find this recent post on creating an email signature of great interest.

Yesterday, I identified the four common personality types of poor email signatures. While much of the post was light-hearted, an effective email signature is essential. It can be challenging to the recipient of a message with a very long or overly formatted signature to find your contact information. Not to mention a poor signature can hurt your professional reputation, add unnecessary bulk, and be a distraction from the content in your message.

There are many ways you can format your email signature, and while one may not be perfect in all situations, there are some universal guidelines that can help you create a signature that is professional, easy to digest and informative.

Email Signature Tips

1. Keep it as short as you can while providing all of the information you deem most important (four lines is the accepted standard).

2. Condense information into fewer lines by using pipes (|) or colons (::) to separate the text.

3. Remember that simple plain text is best; skip colors, special fonts and graphics.

4. Use the accepted signature delimiter (-- ) to help your signature get recognized as such by email clients.

5. Be careful with HTML formatting because it may not appear how you want it to for everyone.

6. Test your signature with as many email clients as you can, especially if you use HTML.

7. Optimize your logo or other graphics, upload the files to your server, and use an absolute URL.

8. Consider using an email signature service if you have specific formatting needs or want to include graphics and other design elements. Here are a few to check out:

9. Provide written out URLs instead of using hyperlinks in your email to ensure the link will go through in the sent message.

10. Avoid including multiple phone numbers and email addresses. Pick your contact preference and get rid of the rest.

11. Only include IM details and Skype account information if you want to be contacted that way by anyone who sees your message.

12. Skip your mailing address — not every recipient wants or should have access to that information.

13. Include links to your most important social media profiles, only if they are appropriate.

14. Include your email address. You can’t rely on various email clients to include header information in replies and forwards.

15. Create different versions, both in length and content and know when to use each version (i.e. use a shorter version on replies).

16. Make sure you update your signature on your mobile device if you frequently use it to send messages. Here are some quick how-to’s on popular devices:

17. Don’t attach your vCard to your messages. Not everyone uses them and even those that do don’t need to receive them repeatedly.

18. Reconsider including a quote; you never know when you might offend someone or give the wrong impression.

19. Avoid including a legal disclaimer unless required to do so.

20. Avoid including a virus-checked message at the bottom of every email.

Examples of Effective Plain Text Email Signatures

Default version:
--
John Smith
President | Top Web Design USA
555-555-5555 | john@johnsmith.com | http://www.websiteurl.com
Twitter: http://twitter.com/twittername | LinkedIn: http://linkedin.com/in/linkedinname

Replies:
--
John Smith
555-555-5555

http://www.websiteurl.com


Forums or Discussion Lists:

--
John Smith

http://www.websiteurl.com

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  • Britt Malka

    Really nice article.

    I would like to correct tip #4 a bit, though, because the proper signature delimiter has two dashes and a space (– ), not just two dashes. Good email clients will cut off the signature and what’s below it, when you’re replying to a message.

  • Sai Bharadwaj

    I use Wise Stamp but, sometimes feel its just too much in there in my signature :)

  • Anne O. Nysmously

    The standard signature delimiter is: Hyphen-Minus Hyphen-Minus Space
    (to use the Unicode names :) Lots of people forget the space, because is
    is difficult to see. And sometimes the email-client just drops it.

    P.S. Your semicolii look like two colons and not like “;”

  • Ryvon Designs

    Great follow-up to yesterday’s “4 personalities” post! I had always though about keeping it simple, and tended to use a shortened signature on replies, but had never really thought about it as a standard rule of practice I should follow. I’ll try to be more careful in making sure replies don’t have the full whammy.

    And thank you for pointing out to change the default mobile signature… ^_^ They can be cute sometimes, but as a professional they do need to be changed. My fav is the one saying “Please excuse the typos as my fat thumbs don’t really fit on this phone’s tiny keyboard.”

    I’m still a fan of branding the signature with a gif that contains all information when sending in html format. One image at the footer of the message to close it off,that will link them to the company website. Yup, more work in testing and I’m not sure how much more effective it is, but personal preferences.

    Pam
    http://www.ryvondesigns.com

  • http://www.avertua.com Alyssa Gregory

    Thanks for the delimiter correction! Post has been updated. :-)

  • Robert

    What is a (signature) delimiter??????????????

    Please, explain, not just give an example.

  • http://www.avertua.com Alyssa Gregory

    @Robert – An email signature delimiter simply identifies the content that follows it as a signature for various email clients so it can be trimmed, grayed out or treated however the recipient wants it to be treated. Here is a quote from Wikipedia:

    The formatting of the sig block is prescribed somewhat more firmly: it should be displayed as plain text in a fixed-width font (no HTML, images, or other rich text), and must be delimited from the body of the message by a single line consisting of exactly two hyphens, followed by a space, followed by the end of line (i.e., “– n”).[1] This latter prescription, which goes by many names, including “sig dashes”, “signature cut line”, “sig-marker”, and “sig separator”, allows software to automatically mark or remove the sig block as the receiver desires. The signature prefix chosen can be different for different people serving as a distinguishing feature of their signatures. A correct delimiter is required for a news posting program to receive the Good Netkeeping Seal of Approval.

  • sime

    I personally find graphics in signatures offensive. The way I look at an E-Mail is similar to a letter. Especially when they come in as attachments.

    E-Mails come with there own letter heads e.g. “John Smith “. I already know who is contacting me and where they are contacting me from. So there is no need to vomit on your signature with artwork more suited to a business card.

    Please keep it simple.

  • Anonymous

    One of my favorite signatures:

    A: Yes.
    > Q: Are you sure?
    > > A: Because it reverses the logical flow of conversation.
    > > > Q: Why is top posting annoying in email?

  • Diabolic Preacher

    My personal sig is 3 lines. name, blog and simpy :)

  • Darren Tidmarsh

    Thanks, great article

  • MIke Blaney

    I am biased as I own an email stationery company, but a branded email with links back to your website has the advantage of making a greater impact and it is optimized to avoid spam filters, junk mail and trash.

  • Niubi

    I don’t really use sigs – My name is enough for me! If I really want the recipient of my email to know my details, then I’ll tell them! I did go through a phase where I was crazy about DubLi, so I made that my signature (something like ‘OMG! check out DubLi.com! They’re awesome!), but it was kind of weird for me to do that so I stopped. I still use DubLi, mind!

  • Anonymous

    How many errors (typographic and spelling) can you find in this thread?

  • Dorsey

    Great information, but apparently several of the thread authors haven’t read either of the referenced articles. How many typographical and spelling errors can you find? If we’re going to be professional in our e-mail so that we’ll be taken seriously, the same is true of blogs and reviews. Misspellings in a written document are as bad (and obvious) as soup on your shirt when talking to someone.

  • ChasL

    Many valid points for and against various signatures. I never realized folks were so passionate about this topic.

    @ChasL

  • kreator

    Regards,
    Name | Department
    Ph: phone number |  Ext – extension no | Cell:  cell no
    _______________________________________________________

  • PeteWJ

    Just a quick note about UK law in relation to e-mail footers. If you are sending an e-mail on behalf of a private or public limited company, it is mandatory to include the company’s registered address. So “Skip your mailing address” is not an option in this case. As an aside, you also are required by UK law to include your company number, and place of registration.
    Not sure what requirements other countries put in place for registered companies – but it’s something that’s often overlooked!

    Good article, though :)

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_L5AVXSH7OFHI5YSAJYCO2GGCDU Savannah Hogan

    I just paid $22.87 for an iPad2-64GB and my girlfriend loves her Panasonic Lumix GF 1 Camera that we got for $38.76 there arriving tomorrow by UPS. I will never pay such expensive retail prices in stores again. Especially when I also sold a 40 inch LED TV to my boss for $675 which only cost me $62.81 to buy. Here is the website we use to get it all from, CoolCent. com

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_6GG7CEFACSCBVP2LFIJ23KVSYQ Emma Pope

    i cant believe this!! me and my sister just got two i-pads for $42.77 each and a $50 amazon card for $9. the stores want to keep this a secret and they dont tell you.
    go here, pluscent.com

  • Marco A. Cruz Q.

    I think that point 12 conficts with point 14. It is not clear to me. What should I understand?