The 4 Personalities of Poor Email Signatures

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An email signature should provide some very basic information about who you are, what you do and how you can be reached. But the possible ways to format that information are boundless.

If you get the constant barrage of incoming mail, like I do, you probably have seen a nice variety of email signatures. And I’m sure there have been some that make you wonder what the sender was thinking. The bottom line is there are certain formats that work better than others in getting your information across in an effective and unobtrusive way (more on that later).

I did some scanning of archived messages, and I noticed there are certainly some patterns in how people sign and close out their messages. I’ve grouped the four most conspicuous formats into four common personality types. Oh, and please note that all references to “John Smith” are fictional and do not apply to a real person.

1. The Novelist

The novelist has an email signature that spans an entire screen length. They provide a lot of information – way too much information — in complete sentences that almost feels like a second email within an email. They typically include links to a handful of web sites, a summary of their experience and current endeavors, every type of contact information they have, a special deal or free teleclass, and close it out with a favorite quote or two.

email signatures

2. The Standout

The standout loves using bold fonts, bright colors and enlarged text. And they format every line differently. The standout’s email signature is a rainbow of blue, green, orange and pink. They also use email stationery and change their theme weekly. And when they make the change, they sometimes forget to change the font colors to accommodate the new background color. So it’s not unusual for the recipient to be reading yellow text on a white background, or red on purple.

email signatures

3. The Graphic Addict

The graphic addict typically includes their company logo, a headshot, and assorted social media icons in their email signature. They freshen up their signature with Microsoft clipart for holidays and special events, and tend to just resize the graphics inline, instead of reducing the file size and optimizing them. They usually don’t test their signature on various email clients, so their messages may be ridden with broken images, or all of the images are included as attachments.

email signatures

4. The Mysterious

The mysterious sender rarely uses an email signature. In fact, they usually don’t even sign their name. True, it’s usually clear who the message is coming from, but it can be highly puzzling to recipients they don’t communicate with often, and very frustrating to those who need a phone number or other contact information. The mysterious sender is also known for using a lot of abbreviations in their messages and providing little clarification.

email signatures

Okay, as fun as this exercise has been, there is a point. There is a way to create an effective email signature and avoid being lumped into one of the signature-challenged groups listed above. Stay tuned for tomorrow’s post, which will provide tips to help you improve your email signature.

What are some of your email signature stories? Have you seen (or used) a dancing Santa?

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  • annedougherty

    I especially like folks to use a font that I don’t have installed, so instead of having a little tree or a stream or something by their name I get a giant green P.

  • Ryvon Designs

    I’m looking forward to readaing the followup post. To add a personal comment, I’ve found it best to use a html graphic, branded to match the company with the basic contact information included. For plain text sending, this reverts to the plain html information links. Simple, not loud, and great for maintaining brand without being a graphic addict ^_^

    Pam
    http://www.ryvondesigns.com

  • Ben Fulton

    Buddy of mine was annoyed by a question that came in from a guy who had an email signature that scrolled in from the side. He set up his response so it would follow the signature in :)

  • Kenneth

    How about the several long paragraphs of legal mumbo jumbo? Not legally correct, and annoying as all get out.

  • http://coronatus.com/ cts91

    I wish there was a law that forced every signature to be simply:

    – John Smith
    +123-432-345

    (Yeah, the + for an international call. Don’t keep assuming every lives in your own country, damn it!)

  • Mrs. Micah

    I’ve seen a number of signatures that feature some sort of spiritual/inspirational quote. Most of the time these just come off as lame or judgmental. It works for a couple people I know who actually do inspirational stuff with their lives. But if every e-mail you send tells me to recycle, I’m going to feel a little judged. It’s not a bad sentiment, but it makes the sender sound like they think the people they’ll be communicating with aren’t smart enough to think of these things themselves, or are just bad people.

  • MrSimoens

    There was a college intern where I work who included a rather large thumbnail sized high school senior picture in his signature. Tacky.

  • http://www.idea15webdesign.com idea15

    I despise the the two “girly girl” email signature sins:
    -A signature including a giant pink bling sparkling animated GIF of their name.
    -Signing emails with “x” (kiss). It’s fine for personal emails and texts to your friends, but very off-putting and tasteless when it comes from a client or a potential supplier.

  • rhd

    that’s not poor.. but disaster!
    I have a friend who loves “blinking_and_bouncing” signature, plus fancy background. He uses it for business email!
    I told him not to do that, but he just said “this, my friend, is what we call A technology!” :D
    &nbsp
    oh btw, how about sent from my iPhone?

  • http://www.brothercake.com/ brothercake

    afaik “sent from my iphone” is added automatically, you can’t prevent it from happening.

    Personally, I dont’ have a signature at all. Usually I add my name at the bottom, sometimes I don’t. I don’t see the point of signatures over and above ego-indulgence (which is not to say there’s anything wrong with ego-indulgence, I just dont’see the point)

  • Wild_Eep

    So what’s the proposed signature format that’s acceptable? Seems easy to cite four examples of crummy ones and never tell people how to improve.

  • Dennis

    You can remove or edit the iphone signature – it’s in the preferences.
    Sent from my ipod :-)

  • Chris Brown

    Thanks for posting on this topic. This topic may seem minor in relevance to a lot of other web development material but in day-to-day operations it can be a real hindrance and/or annoyance. My organization greatly suffers from one of two extremes, most people are either “the novelist” or “the mysterious”.

  • GaryJ

    As well as the big P displaying instead of the tree, the other annoying one is the J displaying instead of the happy smiley face, or the 9 instead of the telephone symbol.

    Looking forward to part 2 tomorrow.

  • monogodo

    @brothercake:

    “Sent from my iPhone” can be turned off in the Settings area of the phone.

    *posted from my iPhone*

  • the_sisko

    You can change the iphone signature in your iphones preferences.

  • Dabe Dotcom

    Gone are the days of RFC 1855 Netiquette Guidelines [October 1995] which states, “If you include a signature keep it short. Rule of thumb is no longer than 4 lines.”

    I remember well trying to pack my name/info, ASCII art, and a witty saying into four 72-column lines of text… *Sigh*

    PS – @brothercake, “Sent from my iPhone” is just the default… You can easily override it in “Settings > Mail, Contacts, Calendar > Signature”

  • BladedThoth

    There is a post somewhere else that the ‘sent from my iPhone’ could be a good way to minimiE useless banter. Keeping your emails short and concise while not offending the recipient could be a great benefit even at the desktop. Just make sure you have one or it might come back to haunt you.

    One of the worst sigs I’ve seen is a raw image with all the info inside the image, so large that you can only see a small part of it.

    Posted on my iPod Touch :)

  • markfiend

    A great response I saw once to all the “confidentiality clause”, “legal disclaimer” rubbish you tend to get from big corporates:

    READ CAREFULLY. By viewing this email you agree, on behalf of your employer, to release me from all obligations and waivers arising from any and all NON-NEGOTIATED agreements, licenses, terms-of-service, shrinkwrap, clickwrap, browsewrap, confidentiality, non-disclosure, non-compete and acceptable use policies (“BOGUS AGREEMENTS”) that I have entered into with your employer, its partners, licensor’s, agents and assigns, in perpetuity, without prejudice to my ongoing rights and privileges. You further represent that you have the authority to release me from any BOGUS AGREEMENTS on behalf of your employer.

  • http://www.idea15webdesign.com idea15

    I recall getting an email from someone who works for South African Airlines. If her signature was to be believed, the laws there require the email signature to include all the legal disclaimer rubbish, plus a list of the company’s Board of Directors, plus a note of all those directors’ nationalities! It’s a bit silly that for a two-line basic email, you also need to be informed that Mr Such and Such is French.

    That raises a relevant point, which is that your country’s e-commerce laws may require certain information in the footer even if you are not an “e-commerce” business.

  • Niubi

    Whilst I don’t use email sigs myself, they do seem to be very popular. My personal view is that the information they contain can be given in the actual email when required. When it comes to people who like to use quotes, well, that’s a bit lame. Who wants to read the same trite quote 1000 times? “DubLi – Fun Shopping!” and other business slogans, logos and information feature prominently in emails from my correspondents.

  • Stevie D

    Kenneth Says:
    How about the several long paragraphs of legal mumbo jumbo? Not legally correct, and annoying as all get out.

    Unfortunately that is added automatically to any external email I send from work, and there is nothing I can do to stop it. I suspect most companies have the same system.

  • FuzzFree

    I do not like the signatures with giant logos :)

    Antonis
    http://www.FuzzFree.com

  • sitehatchery

    I like that it says Sent Via BlackBerry when I send from my BlackBerry. It gives my people the hint that I’m not in front of my computer (where I could just send an email) and that I’m out of the office. Very short and to the point emails sent from a PC could send an unfriendly message. Whereas if it’s sent from a smart phone, long and drawn out messages are more cumbersome to type, so they are naturally shorter – and acceptably so. Heck, I should make this the signature on my regular email.

  • lolz

    the last signature is fine tbh, stop ur moaning!!!1


    thx. c u l8r

  • Black Hawk

    very interesting post on email signatures!

    The Ambassador of HipFiles.com
    Try out my Powerful File Search Engine athttp://www.hipfiles.com

  • http://www.atulthanvi.com atsa

    I’m a web designer so most of the mails are from other web designers, developers or clients. Most of the email signatures i see in my inbox are very well formatted and short.

  • http://www.isquaretechnologies.com SSJ

    I am using following and it’s working well for me.

    – Saurabh Shyara
    http://www.isquaretechnologies.com – Affordable web design and development services firm

  • http://www.rachelreveley.co.uk artemis

    Niubi Says:
    September 18th, 2009 at 8:15 pm

    Whilst I don’t use email sigs myself, they do seem to be very popular. My personal view is that the information they contain can be given in the actual email when required.

    How do you know that contact info is needed? I or someone else has had to ring around to find the contact number of someone without an email sig countless times.

  • Jon Smith

    I love how I am always the example email signature. (And Pocahontas is doing well, thanks.).
    -Jon Smith

  • Anonymous

    how about…

    “sent from my MASSIVE yacht?”

  • Mohsen

    It was funny and informative.
    Thank you so much