This week on Digital Life I did a segment about Email Signature Etiquette. It generated a bit of buzz, so I thought I’d share it with you.

Almost every email program lets you automatically add a signature to the emails you send. I’m sure you seen all kinds of interesting ones: flowery ones, very dense ones, and the horrifying and aesthetically offensive ones. What should yours look like? Here are a few simple guidelines:

First, every single email you send should have a signature. It should be plain text, so that it will look the same no matter what device or software is used to read it. When I say plain text, I mean just type (for geeks, ASCII text), no pictures, no logos, no html code, nothing but text.

Why? More than half the corporate world uses BlackBerrys to communicate. Depending on the vintage, they handle HTML over a wide range from, very poorly to marginally poorly. The operating word here is “poorly,” so why set up a signature that’s guaranteed to torture a large number of corporate users. Overly ornate signatures will produce highly unexpected, and possibly unreadable, results on a BlackBerry. This is also true for the body copy of the email. Tabs, bullets, any kind of alignment is all thrown out the window and HTML looks like jumbled computer code when it is displayed as text.

Another, and possibly more important, reason to use plain text is the wide range of spam filters that are currently deployed. Many of these filters look at the ratio of text to graphics as a test. If your email is already in HTML format, a logo or a combination of logo and your picture may kick your email into the corporate trash.

Like I said, signatures should be simple, complete and in plain text.

What should you include in your email signature? If it’s your personal signature: your name, email and the phone number(s) that are most relevant to your average recipients. Yes, your email address is in the “from” field at the top of the email. And, yes, they can reply to you by simply clicking “reply.” But what if they want to copy your information into a document or the notes field of a database or an address book program? The goal is to make contacting you and storing your information convenient.

If you have a business account, your signature should include all of your contact data. Name, title, company, office address, your email, your phone numbers and the company website. All text and all neatly stacked flush left.

Why include everything? How many times have you wanted to call someone about an email they sent and, because their phone number wasn’t in the email, you had to stop what you were doing to go look it up. Putting all your contact info into your email communication shows a world of respect for the one thing that everyone needs and has way too little of, their time.

One last thing, it is completely OK to leave the line, “Sent from my blackberry” or “Sent from my iPhone” at the bottom of a mobile email. It lets the recipient know that you are answering their email from your mobile device and that may get you a pass on some small typos and spelling errors. However, do everyone a favor and lose the, “Typing with my thumbs” line. It’s the 21st century; everyone types with their thumbs.

Set up some plain text email signatures and use them. It’s the right thing to do. For more help with your digital life, come visit me at Shelly Palmer


About Shelly Palmer

Named one of LinkedIn’s Top 10 Voices in Technology, Shelly Palmer is CEO of The Palmer Group, a strategic advisory, technology solutions and business development practice focused at the nexus of media and marketing with a special emphasis on machine learning and data-driven decision-making. He is Fox 5 New York's on-air tech and digital media expert, writes a weekly column for AdAge, and is a regular commentator on CNBC and CNN. Follow @shellypalmer or visit or subscribe to our daily email

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"Email Signature Etiquette" by @ShellyPalmer

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