Six ways to make a good e-mail signature

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Thu, Jun 21 - 9:37 pm EDT | 11 years ago by
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This post of Doug’s got me thinking…

I’ve seen every variation of every possible email signature in the world. That’s a pretty broad statement, but I am 99% sure I have seen pretty much everything one can do with their email signature. Source: Service Untitled » Sample Email Signatures – customer service and customer service experience blog

The e-mail signature is something that can be helpful or royally annoying. You see while you can help people by including your phone number, e-mail, and website… adding a graphic or quote can just drive you batty.

No matter how your e-mail program does it, here are my tips:

  1. Keep it short.  Seven lines is good. Mine happens to be 8, because I also include a row of “=” to separate it from my text.
  2. Keep it simple.  Leave the images for your website.  I’ve also found that images and other “nifty” things make your e-mail more likely to get tagged as spam and lost.
  3. Spell out websites.  Don’t count on the HTML signature to work all the time.  Instead of making a hyperlink like “My website” use  This also lets people copy and paste into a browser or contact card.
  4. Only include the information you want to share.  It seems silly, but if you don’t want business calls at home, don’t give out your home phone number.  If you keep one IM account just for friends, don’t put it into your sig file.
  5. Forget the little quotes.  Yeah I had this at one time too.  I even had a random quote generator for a while  While you might think your quote is pithy or wise or funny, it might offend someone or just be confusing.
  6. Don’t attach your contact card by default.  Another potential spam flag and once you’re in my contacts, I don’t need it again and again.

Look we all know that an e-mail sig file is a great thing for making sure people have your contact information, but if you follow these steps, you won’t piss as many people off with yours.

Update: After I wrote this and it started to get more Digg traffic I thought of a #7…

7. Stick with black text and simple fonts.  Repeat after me, Arial is my friend.  Yes, I know it’s boring.  But it’s also on every machine in the world and it was designed to be easily readable on screen.  Yes, there are some better ones, but Arial is a great baseline.  You can count on it.  Use it.  Arial is your friend.

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  • Mary Emma Allen

    Some good advice, Tris. I’m considering how I can slant my posts to refer readers from Home Biz Notes and my author site, Mary Emma’s Potpourri of Writing.

  • Doug

    Thanks for the link, Tris! Good advice. Some people’s email signatures are ridiculous. They just include everything you can imagine and then some.

  • Tris Hussey

    Thanks ME and Doug. I should have added a bonus 7 … and maybe I’ll edit it to do so … stick to a basic font. Yes, you can use a cute script font, but what if the other person doesn’t have it? What if other people think it’s hard to read? Stick it Arial. Yeah it’s boring but it always works!

  • Ian

    You forgot about the 25pt, fuchsia Apple Chancery ‘signature’. You might as well put one of those plywood cut-outs of a fat lady bending over in the garden on your email. Tacky accounting bastard.

  • Tris Hussey

    OMG Ian you are so right!

    The thing is there are bits like FeedBurner’s headline animator which would be really useful, but does take up space and just begs for your e-mail to get flagged as spam. Pity.

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  • Alex

    Aren’t you forgetting the most important tip of all? To include the
    – (dash dash space)
    as the first line in any signature.

    I know some mail clients include it by default, but surely this is the #1 rule when creating email signatures.

  • Jennifer

    All very true, my signature is a image of my name…. my real signature actually (first name only) but done with a mouse so sloppier. Than a line with my full name and then my blog site.

    It is super simple and I get compliments on it all the time.

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  • Paul

    Great advice. I’ve seen some funny quotes in my day but often times they just end up coming across as obnoxious.

  • Jeremy Brooks

    “Keep it short” — you think a 7-line signature is short? That is longer than most of the e-mail I receive. Even 5 lines is pushing it in most cases.
    Also, fonts should not be an option. You should not count on somebody having a full-featured rich html email client. Use plain text, with no formatting. Then anybody can read it on anything: cell phone, slow dialup connection, webmail client, etc.
    My .02

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  • Tris Hussey

    I like the “=” instead of “-” … but yes that is a great thing to do.

    On the 7 lines being “short” … yeah that’s something I read, I tried just 4 but my sig started to get too long. The idea though is shorter the better.

    The HTML vs text part. Outlook used to let you do that, but as of 2007 that doesn’t seem to be an option anymore. So … you’re kinda stuck.
    But if you don’t try to link in images or javascript you’ll be cool.

    I used to have a Plaxo-powered sig, I think that just got annoying after a while.

    On fonts … Verdana is probably safe. I have to admit, with only a bit of guilt, that I’m using Calibri. Why? After years of screen gazing I think it really is a great screen font.

  • user

    8 lines?! The standard has always been 4 line max.

  • Podcast: Email Signatures

    Some good points here.

    I just posted a podcast earlier this week about how email signatures are an easy way to market your business online. If you run a small business, or are a contractor/freelancer, check it out.

  • live tv

    Biggest one – don’t put religious verses, images (they won’t show up to non-html clients), personal sayings, or the dreaded “advertising” pitches.

  • Terinea Weblog

    4 lines or so, one link only due spam filters and keeping short, don’t bother with your email address, you already have it.

  • Chris J.

    Mozilla Thunderbird still allows the option of plain text. I realize this may not help those in a business environment that requires the use of Outlook, but I’m just throwing it out there.

  • Dan Hussey

    Another Hussey! Brilliant!

  • David Magda

    To separate the signature from the actual message use two dashes and a space: “– “.

    This is the standard as outlined in RFC 3676 (S. 4.3). It’s generally used on Usenet, but should be used in e-mail as well since the message formats are more-or-less the same.

    Also, as for length, the netiquette RFC (RFC 1855) states that four lines max. is the general rule of thumb.

    It may be useful to have more than one signature: have a default one that’s short for people you regularly correspond with, but if you’re contacting someone new have a longer one for the initial contact with all your info. This way they have your info, but if you have a long e-mail thread you’re not adding extra junk with each message.

  • Ken Woods

    What ever happened to:

    First Last
    +1(555)666-7777 x88

    The first thing “– ” is significant. It’s called a “sigdash”. Dash dash space. Smart email programs recognize that everything underneath this string is a signature, and will remove the signature when replying.

    Alas, outlook et al, are not smart email programs.


  • jamie martin

    i agree with jeremey

  • helmudt

    Tris, I don’t think you got Alex’s point. Adding a “– ” (dash dash space” as the first line will signal to e-mail clients that everything below that line is the signature. They will then remove the signatures of others when you reply to their email. Using “== ” will not do the trick. You need dash dash space.

  • NotMe

    If you like fancy fonts, create a graphic of the text and use an HTML img tag with alternate text. HTML recipients will see your custom artwork and plain texters will see the alternate text, except for the select few using an email client that doesn’t grok
    HTML at all. My client (Thunderbird) knows to send these friends text-only email.

  • http://na mogrefy

    But microsoft told me Calibre was the new Arial!

  • http://na mogrefy

    Calibri* =)

  • Tris Hussey

    Point taken on the “=” … so I’ve edited my sig already! I wish Outlook was smart too.

  • Chuck Brown

    I’ve found that images are a complete bust for spam filters, and way too many people receive only in plain text.

    So, in order to assure that my mail has the best chance of getting thru, after the default dash deal, I have:

    Voiceover/Web Dev/Songwriting
    ph: XXX.XXX.XXXX
    fx: XXX.XXX.XXX

    Hard to get a lot more concise than that. All important info for those who know me and those who don’t. I suppose I could do the two phone numbers on a single line. That might be an improvement.

    I agree about the concise stuff…but as spam filters continue to get tweaked and tightened, my number one concern has become just making sure it’s received. So, damn the graphics, the pretty fonts and all the rest….and man, do I wish Outlook didn’t suck so much (Thunderbird user, but not lover).

  • Annoyed

    How about proof-reading your articles — I mean business card, too.

    “While you might thing your quote is pithy or wise or funny, it might offend someone or just be confusing.” ?

  • gwalker

    I would say that arial is not your friend: some clients (blackberry is a good example) display things in a format more reminiscent of Courier New and will grossly change the look\feel based on spacing.

    I keep my sig very simple, and all in courier and have had no issues with display differences across multiple clients:

    work phone
    mobile phone

  • Nutter

    Here’s a challenge >>

    How the hell does someone pimp something
    like this ?

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    Now you too can read those annoying Outlook meeting invites.

    BTW… is ascii art considered acceptable in signatures? What’s the consensus?

  • Susan Gunelius

    These are great tips in terms of helping your personal or business brand as well.

  • Rick Taylor

    I’m sorry, but you only need two rules.


    #2) No stupid ASCII-drawn designs and logos.

    Here is what your signature should look like:

    John Smith

    See? Simple. You don’t need eight fucking lines. You don’t need graphics. You don’t need HTML. You don’t need vCards. You don’t need ascii-logos and designs. You don’t need retarded mottos, slogans or quotes or other things that simply make people think you’re a tool.

    How this made digg, I don’t fucking know.

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  • Josh T.

    While I appreciate this post’s sentiment, I still think email signatures are lame… especially ones over 2 lines long. It’s just a cheap ego-stroking, self-promotion tool.

  • AyCee

    Two words: plain text

  • Anotherpeevedpostmaster

    Pardon me, but isn’t there an old old old internet meme regarding the inverse relationship between your sig size and your willie?

  • Shaun

    @ Rick Taylor;

    I too was always told 4 lines, sigdash, nice and simple. Now that I’m in a corporate settings, I realise the important part is to have a client smart enough to not incclude every .sig in replies.

    Mine has to include Name, Department, DID#, Company name … *and* contact details (two phone numbers, EU & US and an email address) that be answered 24×7, because I’m not personally there every day of the year. But ‘we’ are.

    It’s very difficult to include that much without confusing everyone. Just be glad that they don’t suggest/require the increasingly-popular 20 lines of legalgarb.

  • spoonyfork

    @Rick Taylor
    You are 100% correct. Thank you for posting.

  • Heywood Jablohmy

    This advice applies to sigs in forum posts, where a lot of dolts use quotes. The quotes sometimes take up more text space than the actual posts.

    7 lines seems excessive, IMO. 4 seems reasonable and professional-looking.

  • shawnarama

    The only exception to the black text I would add – just ‘cuz I think it’s clever – is if your last name is a color (i.e. Green,) is to put your last name – only your last name – in its own color. I think it’s neat.

  • Tris Hussey

    First thanks to all of you for coming by and reading and commenting.

    What I think is really interesting is how much e-mail sigs do bug people. For a while I had a huge legal disclaimer at the bottom of my e-mails. It was a nice CYA thing, but rather annoying after a while. Several friends still use it, though.

    The bit about length. It seems that the consensus is that 4 is enough. Right now mine is 6. I think the reality is that there are so many important contact points that sometimes you need more than 4 lines.

  • grawity

    1. use dash-dash-space to separate body and sig
    2. no HTML (pleeaaaaaase)
    3. short sig (no more than 5 lines)
    4. but not too short (at least first/last name)

  • mysteray

    one thing i hate to see in an email signature is your email address. what’s the point? you’re sending an email, therefore the recipient has your email address. no need to put it in the signature.

  • Emre

    I’m an Emacs Gnus user, I clear the message up to signature with Ctrl-X Ctrl-Z key sequence in replies. So “– ” is a must. (Gnus puts it automatically, but in case you don’t use it.)

    I don’t see your whatever-beauty-elegant-blah-blah fonts, gnus clears all HTML.

    I don’t mind seeing a quotation, most often I like a witty one.

    I don’t read a 7 line sig.

    Writing e-mail address to the signature is silly. It’s already written in From: and Reply-to: headers.

    :) Best.

  • Robert Marceau

    I would like a small drawing of myself in with the website.

  • Jeremy L. Gaddis

    Rick Taylor++

    - plain text
    - no ascii art
    - four lines or less

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  • Melissa

    I don’t use a signature all of the time, but I think the suggestion of using “http” is a good one because I have had a few people respond to forwarded emails saying that my web sites are not working. The HTML just didn’t forward, but those that don’t understand that assume your web sites are gone.

  • Jame Healy

    Very good… I’d add two points I posted before:

    1. Add a country code your phone numbers, and
    2. Use a simpler “reply/forward” signature with only essential information.

    Why? See here:

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  • chudez

    if the above suggestions become commonplace, i, for one, would dearly miss the email sig quotes. an email sig quote is to the email body as a light dessert is to an often rather dry meal.

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  • Laurel

    And for the love of God, leave GOD out of your email signature!!

  • tool wrangler

    Are you all on dialup? And even if you are, a dialup connection can download an email WITH a long sig very quickly. Maybe you all have ADD and can’t stay focused long enough on an email message without getting distracted by the signature at the end and distributed throughout the conversation. Frankly, your sig needs to have all of the stuff that it NEEDS to have. Period. That makes it a convenient place to get all your contact info. and your business associates need look no further than the bottom of ANY of your messages to contact you. My God… the hysteria… grow up.

  • Randall


    I have been doing some googleing on email signatures.

    Especially text verses html.

    From what I read about 99.6 percent of email
    clients support html.

    So why not make use of a html signature.
    You keep jazz up the signature alot.

    With today’s email clients there seems to be no reason not to use html.

    Sincerly ,

    Randall Glass

    Get Free Channels on Satellite TV.
    No Subscribtion Fees !
    Visit Randy’s Satellite Shop

  • AiQing

    I would like to advocate against using an image in signatures. Too often it gives the email (on Outlook at least) an ‘attached file’ paperclip icon. This can be frustrating when I want to sort through my emails with genuine attachements

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  • Ian W

    Randall (of the ‘I want my advertising in this comments page’ school, but you raise reasonable points):

    The reason not to jazz up a signature is because it’s a signature. It’s not mail content, it’s the same in every mail you send. The interesting bit of the mail is what you want to send that’s unique to that mail, the content itself. So why draw the reader away from it with a 72pt flashing name with alien glow effect?

    On the 8, 7, 5 line thing: netiquette is *3* lines, 72 characters max per line. Admittedly this dates back to 80×25 text screens, but if you’re putting in name/job title/phone numbers, why would you put one piece of information per line:

    John Smith, Senior wombat fiddler, Acme Inc
    Office: +1 234 567 8901 Cell: +1 234 567 8902

    2 lines, all people want… You could add your preferred email address – it’s in the message headers already, but modern clients tend to ‘helpfully’ hide it from view, particularly when printed.

    Generally: yes, HTML is supported, but there’s rarely much point to use it in emails. When I receive emails in bizarre nonstandard fonts, it looks like tarted up spam. I know what font I like to read my messages in – and when an email arrives in plaintext I get to choose. I might be poorly sighted or have a super high res monitor, and 12/10/9pt would then be far too small, for instance.

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  • Ryan

    Some of you are missing the point of putting your email address in the sig: Emails that are printed or forwarded will lose this information, and some mail clients (Lotus Notes) make it a little obtuse to see the sender’s email address. I have been in the situation of having a person’s email but not his email address, and that can be more annoying than you think.

  • http://no dingle

    <<<<< good point

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  • money-saving-tips

    Hmmmm that’s cool.

  • greg tomas

    I made a proxy site myself, I believe the right to privacy on the internet is important, new ruling about the police in britain being able to hack into people compmuters without warrant is crazy. Anyone remeber george orwells 1984?

  • prafuldass

    The best tutorial i’ve seen on this site. thanks

  • Why oh why

    I am about two years too late. But why in the hell would anyone put their email in their email signature? It makes no freaking sense. <–Period.

  • Why oh why

    And I do see the comments above. But I disagree that forwarded emails do not retain the signature. Every forwarded mail I get at least has a signature from the original sender. It all depends on how you have your options set in email; to add the sig to a reply/forward or not. You are probably right about Lotus Notes though, no experience with that here.

  • ich

    To Point one: Please use the standard syntax to seperate text and signatures: “– ” (Two dashes folowed by one Space) and nothing else in one Line.

  • Peter Stevens

    I agree with James that phone numbers in email signatures need to include the full country code. It makes it much simpler to work out how to contact people.

    The other thing is in the UK there are legal requirements on business to include specific information in every email that they send. For those of you inthe UK you can find the legal requirements for email signatures on my blog at

  • Cody Rapley

    Having relevant contact information in an e-mail sig is a must, but I find that after a extended discussion you can end up with a huge chunk of signatures at the bottom of the message that get lugged around in every reply, so having images and superfluous info is probably a bad idea.

    Cody Rapley

  • Bill

    Why would you want signatures to be removed from responses? They are especially helpful in long email threads with multiple people.

  • Rod Haumily

    I agree with Ken Woods.

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