Lengthy e-mail signaturecommon mistake

To quote or not to quote, that is the question.

Better yet — where to put all the multiple phone numbers, job titles and web URLs without turning every three-word reply into a legal laundry list?

As e-mail signatures become more of a standard in business and a common indulgence for quote lovers, good judgment and etiquette don’t always win out in creating a tasteful signature.


Mitch Wagner, executive editor of InformationWeek.com, says the biggest mistake people make is in creating e-mail signatures that are just too long — after all, inundating your contacts with information is a prime way to alienate them.

“If your signature is too long, it creates a negative impression. Anything you can do to keep it shorter is a service to the people you e-mail it to,” Wagner said.

Wagner has seen more than a few 22-line monsters in his day and says if length is anything to go by, a shorter e-mail signature reveals not only an ability to be economical with words, but also how high on the totem pole you probably are.

“The more important the person, the shorter his e-mail signature, and the other way around,” Wagner said.

Wagner says the primary purpose of a signature should be a utilitarian one: To tell people how to get in touch with you. At most you want your name, title, phone number, site URL and e-mail, generally in that order. Remember to always put your most important information such as your name and e-mail address (which Outlook tends to strip out) first and last, since those are natural places the eye tends to rest. Also, don’t use formatted text since it can easily end up wrongly displayed.

As for those quote-laden indulgences you often see at the bottom of personal e-mails, Wagner suggests they may not be as meaningful as the sender thinks they are.

“I don’t think they say anything about the personality of a person as much as people think they do, and I don’t think these little personal things quite belong there. They’re usually kind of dumb, kind of a waste of space,” Wagner said.

Still, Wagner says he understands why some people like to throw the occasional line from a favourite movie or monologue snippet into their messages.

“They’re just trying to put a personal impression on what can be a very impersonal medium. But they are easy to make fun of,” Wagner said.

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