Isn’t it difficult to say goodbye? It’s unsettling and sometimes unpleasant. There may not be rules for specific scenarios, but we can provide some advice on how to say goodbye in an email without feeling weird.
For all intents and purposes, an email signature is your “goodbye.” It makes no difference whether you embrace or shake someone’s hand. It makes no difference whether you merely offer them your name or provide them your business card with all of your contact information. It’s how you create a good first impression. Or not.
In this essay, I’ll discuss the five most essential things I’ve learned from connecting with people on the Internet over the last two decades. Surprisingly, the quandaries surrounding email signatures have persisted since those early email messages were exchanged through BitNet and FidoNet, or even MIT’s CTSS mail system in the 1960s, but I digress.
Email has been around for a long time. So, how do you do it correctly? How do you sign off without being snobbish, but simultaneously providing enough information for others to know who and what you are? Let’s get this party started. By the end, you’ll have a decent notion of what you want to accomplish with your own email signature.
What an Email Signature is Supposed to Do
When I’m contacting folks these days, I have three distinct “levels” of email signatures. Why? There are three tiers of connections to consider, ranging from a quick remark to a friend to a formal business email communication to a firm. Three versions are basically all you need, and their goal should be as follows:
1. A Fast Smile — This signature form is used on quick emails to friends or coworkers with whom you communicate often, many times each day.
2. Smile and a Handshake — This signature variation is used on lengthier emails to coworkers when the tone has to be a bit more official.
3. A Firm Handshake and Business Card – This is for when you need to compose a professional business-related email and include your title and contact information.
Each of these email signatures has its own set of unwritten rules. It won’t be the end of the world if you break them. If you really want to create a good impression, you should follow some of these suggestions for each sort of email you send.
The Quick Smile Signature
An email signature is not always required. At the very least, you don’t necessarily need a formal one. This is similar to passing by a coworker in the corridor. You run across them multiple times a day. You both go to the same meetings. Do you really need to shake their hands in the hallway? No, most of the time it’s just a short “Hey Fred” and a grin. When you’re emailing a coworker fast to ask for guidance or a suggestion, you may not even need a signature. If you must sign off, use my method of using your name preceded by a dash.
There’s no need for flowery phrases or complicated titles. The individual understands who you are and what you do, and anything other would be uncomfortable. Consider it a typical water-cooler dialogue that generally ends with something like “alright, catch you later then!” and a short wave. Nothing more is required.
Smile and a Handshake
The third kind of signature is a cross between professional and casual. This is the most difficult to master. You may want to contact these colleagues with semi-formal business demands, but you don’t want them to think you’re being stiff. They should understand the significance of the email, but you don’t want them to worry whether you’re still pals. This is when the signature’s subtlety comes into play. These are frequently reduced in size and nearly invisible in the email’s footer. A signature I call the “one-liner” is one of the greatest techniques for this.
In this version, a “|” character separates all of the information. This might be as basic as an address or email address, phone numbers, mobile phone numbers, or anything else. It should be concise, with just the most important information included. I’ve even seen folks create this signature in a lighter font than the remainder of the email, maybe in grey. Another method I’ve seen is a two-liner. A name and one point of contact, which might be a single phone number or an email address.
This is obviously for receivers who already know who you are and what firm you work for, and you’re simply sending them one of many communication emails. It has the “feel” of a pleasant email, but if the person needs to call you and may not have your phone number in their Rolodex (do people still use those…? ), your contact information is at the bottom of the email, right at their fingertips.
A Formal Handshake
Of course, there are occasions when you need to email someone outside of the organization, or maybe you need to contact someone within the firm about something official that necessitates a formal dialogue. It’s the same as dressing up for an award ceremony for your coworkers. It’s more informative to cover what not to do first before discussing what you should do in similar situations. Yes, you should provide contact information such as your business name, website, and email address, but don’t go overboard. Is it really necessary to supply four separate phone numbers, as well as a fax machine?
No, offer enough contact information so that people may reach you through email, phone, or even a website, but don’t go overboard. Providing a multitude of phone numbers gives the impression that you’re always on the go and difficult to reach.
Another typical error is to come off as a self-promoter. People like this will stuff their email signatures with links to their social networking profiles, to the point where the signature is almost 10 lines lengthy and primarily self-promotional.
Another approach to make a bad first impression is to utilize unusual colors and fonts in your email address. It’s difficult to pull off anything like that since the colors must match and the typefaces must appear correct. Unfortunately, many individuals have no idea how to correctly coordinate colors, so their email signature seems like it came from a Willy Wonka factory.
This kind of clown-signature is unprofessional, and everyone who receives it will assume you have no clue what you’re doing, regardless of your industry. As a result, avoid bright colors. Maintain simplicity.
What You Can Do Right
So, how should a professional email signature appear if you want to create a good first impression? Stick to the essential information, keep the layout and style simple, and avoid information overload.
Here’s an illustration. This one has four lines: name, firm name, phone number, and email address. That’s all.
This individual utilized simply plain text, and restricting it to four lines helps it seem sleek and professional.
I go a step further in keeping my signature modest by utilizing italics and fading it to dark grey with my own address. Keeping it a shade brighter than the email content itself communicates to the receiver that you value the message above your personal information. It’s a subtly humble nod.
Titles should also be used only when they are important to the dialogue. People need to know that I’m the owner of my own website in most contact about it, therefore the title is vital. Only the email address and phone number are provided for immediate communication.
Another example is the MakeUseOf signature I use for both internal and external communication.
I honestly debated whether or not to use the title here. It is often only relevant in external email conversations and just moderately relevant in select internal emails. I began with two versions, one for external and one for internal, but after getting bored of manually switching between the two, I settled on the one above. At the risk of seeming arrogant, it remains fading and secondary. It also includes the previously stated “|” character, a tiny splash of color to help the website name stand out, and I chose to be brave and include a fifth line for a quotation.
It may take some trial and error to create the ideal email signature that symbolizes who you are, what you do, and how to reach you, but once you do, it feels good to know that you’re putting your best foot forward in every email conversation that you send out.
What are your recommendations for a better email signature? What do you like and hate about other people’s signatures? Let us know what you think in the comments area below!
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