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.