Merlin conducted a brief email tutorial yesterday on Twitter.

Lesson 1:

If your message is shorter than your email signature—my thanks for the first part and a secret wish that you get a cold sore for the second.
  — Merlin Mann (@hotdogsladies) Mon Jul 9 2012 12:24 PM CDT

Lesson 2:

Also, thanks for including your email address in your email signature.

Might also be handy to remind me that you sent your email via email.

  — Merlin Mann (@hotdogsladies) Mon Jul 9 2012 12:27 PM CDT

The lecture series soon switched to Twitter (with excellent class participation), but I want to stick with email.

Here’s the thing: Everyone has their own ideas about what a good email signature is. Sophisticated users—and yes, we are at a stage of civilization where having a blog and being an early adopter of Twitter makes you a sophisticate—like short signatures because long signatures are so 1997. Unsophisticated users, which is to say well over 99% of users, think long signatures are cute or clever or—in company email—professional.

When emailing as Dr. Drang, my signature is typically

Dr. Drang

It’s a TextExpander snippet tied to the abbreviation ;rdd. People who correspond with Dr. Drang are “internet people” and would think I’m a douche if I had some clever saying under it.

My IRL signature used to be short, too, an indication of how refined and elegant I am. It was just my name and the URL of my vCard, which is stored on my company’s web host. This went over like a lead balloon. Clients started emailing me for my address, phone number, and–wait for it—fax number. This was frustrating because it was a waste of my time, but I soon suspected that was the least of my worries.

I’m pretty sure these clients, who didn’t realize that my all my contact info could be in their Blackberry with just a couple of clicks, thought I was the dumb one. “What a rube,” I imagined them saying to themselves, “Doesn’t even put his address and phone number in his email signature.”

So I adopted the protective coloration. My signature is now six fucking lines long:

Street address
City, State Zip
Office phone
Cell phone
Link to vCard

I keep that last line in there for those clients who do know what a vCard is and appreciate my making their lives easier. The rest is for those who forward to their “girl” so she can enter in into Exchange. The requests for address and phone number have stopped.1

I don’t use the full signature in every email, just the first couple of a new project. After that it’s just my name. But since many of my clients never start a new thread, and never edit out the quoted old messages, my full signature is usually somewhere in every email.

Need I tell you I succumbed to top-posting my replies years ago?

  1. I draw the line at including the fax number. I have some pride. 

7 Responses to “Sig”

  1. Jamie says:

    I’m still in denial about top posting. If I have a very short response, I might.

    Give me another five years and il. Probably have given in.

  2. Clark says:

    I’m still fighting top-posting but dang it if the iPhone doesn’t make it hard. (Deleting all the text but the stuff you want to reply to is nearly a lost cause on the iPhone)

    My somewhat secret shame is that I have a small graphic as part of my signature too. The rest is just name, email, phone, and fax. Having the email might seem pointless but it’s great when attorneys print out large swaths of email. (I don’t understand the fascination with printing reams of paper by attorneys when it’s all on disk - but that’s how they do it)

  3. Dr. Drang says:

    I am (for the moment) dead set against having any sort of file attachment, whether vCard or company logo, both of which are pretty common, in my signature. I often find myself scanning all the messages associated with a project in list view, trying to find the one to which a certain report or photo was attached. As my eye runs down the list, I know I can ignore the messages that have no paperclip icon. vCards and graphics in the signature put the paperclip on many messages that have no other attached files and slow the down the search.

  4. Kevin Lipe says:

    Never thought I’d see the day when the mighty Dr. Drang admitted to top posting. (I usually have to do it too.)

  5. Than says:

    @Clark - The iPhone will only quote a selection of an email if you’ve got an active selection and tap reply. That said, select is starting to feel cumbersome.

  6. Wayne says:

    Signature fixed.

    Cheers, W

  7. Richard says:

    I leave off both salutation and signature: email clients display To and From in the header, and I’m a big fan of DRY, so…

    I, too, have succumbed to top-posting.

    In an attempt to avoid the Fibonacci-like growth of entries in an email thread, I tried for a while to trim my replies down to just my text with no quoted and indented goop from the previous respondents, but that just confused the heck out of people, so I gave up.

    As much as I loathe Twitter, I’m beginning to think limiting email to 140 characters could only be a good thing…