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Return to Catalog of Free Writing ToolsPrint the job-aid for this writing toolFREE WRITING TOOLS: Sample no. 5

Handling the signature

 

In email, your "signature" is the information you append at the end of each message. In most email software, you can define a default signature that is automatically appended to each message.

Most common blunders
— Providing too little contact information.
— Using fancy fonts, colors, or graphics.
— Appending inspirational quotations.

How to review this sample
1) Examine the original signature at left.
2) Review the revision at right.
3) Review Your tools for this email challenge (below).

Handling your email signature

Original Signature

 

... I hope this message has been helpful. If you have any additional questions, please contact eBilling Support at 888-555-9665.

James
x6240

 

RECOMMENDED APPROACH

 

... I hope this message has been helpful. If you have any additional questions, please contact eBilling Support at 888-555-9665.

James Morgan
eBilling Representative
Envirotoner, Inc.
1550 Oceanview Avenue
Tulsa, OK 74127

Tel: 918.555.6240
Fax: 918.555.6240
Email: jmorgan@EnviroToner.net
Website: www.EnviroToner.net


Your tools for this email challenge

 

  • Key value: The reader's needs and convenience. With your signature, set aside your own personal tastes or preferences, and be guided by what works for the reader.
  • Automate. Use your email software to create a standard signature with complete contact information. Yes, you routinely write to colleagues who already know your full name and title, but don't worry about it. People don't read your signature—until they need your phone number. Or your street address. Or your fax number. Or your company website... You get the idea. Anyone who doesn't need such information will simply ignore it.
  • More on the rationale for complete contact information. For all professional email, complete contact information should be your default; let the complete signature above right serve as your model. If you're struggling with this notion, just consider the plight of someone outside your company, like a customer or a vendor: to follow up on your message, she may want to call you with a series of questions, or fax you an IRS form, or send the contract in an overnight envelope, or look up your company's services on your website. With the original signature (above left), she could do none of these things; it limits her to a reply via email. (To call you, for instance, she must email a request for your phone number.) Viewing her position in this light, you can see that the inclusion of a useless four-digit telephone extension adds insult to injury: What am I supposed to do with that...?
  • Keep it simple. With professional email, your signature is not an opportunity for you to display your sense of visual style. Remember: It's about your reader's needs and convenience. So do not use fancy fonts or graphics in your signature; what the reader wants is the information it contains.
  • vCards. They initially seemed like a great idea, but vCards haven't gained much traction across the business world. Part of the problem is the fact that they often show up as attachments (and some people have no idea what they are or what to do with them). The key idea here: Send your vCard if you're certain your reader will know what it is, but do not try to use it as a stand-in for your signature.
  • Additional options. When including a website, it's a good idea to make it a live hyperlink. Also, if social tools and interactions are an integral part of your work — e.g., a Twitter account — include them in your signature.

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