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Success tip: Use an email signature

A well designed email signature gives a professional impression and communicates useful contact information to the recipient. I also explain how to manage multiple signatures in Outlook and on your smartphone.

Summary

24 August 2012 updated 18 August 2016.

To succeed, there are some big things you need to get right, such as being hard-working and honest. However getting small things right also makes a big difference. In some cases, once you get it right the benefits accrue year after year without further effort.

One example is using an email signature. That is some standard text that your email program automatically puts at the bottom of every email that you send. Your email program will guide you through the process of creating a signature. (Despite being called a “signature” it does not have the legal effect of signing the email. )

Example of an email signature

My own signature is reproduced below, slightly anonymised:

Mohammed Amin MBE FRSA MA FCA AMCT CTA(Fellow)
Clare College Cambridge Alumnus of the Year 2014
My website www.mohammedamin.com contains a personal profile and a collection of my writings. If you would like to be sent an email whenever I add a new page to my website, please let me know.

Each of us changes the world every day. We can choose to make it a better place.

Mobile:   +44 (0) 7xxx xxx xxx
Email:     xxxxxxx@xxxx.com
Twitter:   @mohammed_amin

My signature conveys things about me that I want the recipient to know.

Where your personal email account is concerned, or if you are self-employed, you can use any text that you wish subject to complying with the law. If you work for a company, the format and content of the email signature are likely to be specified by company policy.

Why an email signature matters

Every email that you send conveys two messages.

An explicit message

That is the content of the email that you have just typed. You type the words and the recipient reads them when they open the email.

An implicit message

As with every other form of communication, your email conveys additional information about you. For example, if the email is badly spelt, or has poor grammar, that is conveying a quite undesirable message about you to the recipient.

If you have a well-designed email signature, that tells the recipient that you are a well organised person with a professional approach to life. It is also conveys explicitly to the recipient the details you have included within the signature, such as your website address, mobile phone number or physical address. Such details can be very helpful if the recipient wants to contact you in future.

The absence of a signature tells the recipient that you either do not know how to use the technology, or that you cannot be bothered about professionalising how you communicate with other people, and that you have no wish to make it easy for other people to communicate with you. A badly constructed signature is also unhelpful, rather like spelling badly.

What about information you don’t want to share with all email recipients?

Firstly, it is up to you to decide what you include in your email signature, based upon the impression you wish to give and the amount of personal information you wish to share widely. For example, it is normal to include physical business addresses but not physical home addresses.

Secondly, with each email that you send, you can if you wish delete as much of the email signature as you wish. That is quick and easy to do. For example, I receive many emails from people I do not know, and sometimes delete my mobile number before sending my reply if I do not wish this stranger to be able to phone me.

Using multiple signatures

The email program that I, and many other people, use is Microsoft Outlook. That contains excellent facilities for using multiple signatures, including the following:

I also have the same four email accounts set up on my iPhone. The iPhone is understandably less capable than Outlook. However you can have a different signature associated with each email account, as I have chosen to do.

I recently decided that the easiest way of keeping my signatures up to date was to have a Word document containing each of them. I cut and paste from that into Microsoft Outlook to create the signatures in Outlook.

For the iPhone, I send an email using Outlook which synchronises to the mail account in the iPhone, and I then cut and paste that signature into the place in the iPhone mail settings where signatures are stored.

Supplement - Your name in outgoing emails

Your email system will of course send your email address (xxx@yyy.com) as part of the header of your email message. However the information your email system sends about your name is entirely under your control.

As I receive many emails, I see many examples of poor practice, such as names which are not capitalised (mohammed amin) or which are incomplete or not disclosed at all. The most professional approach is the simplest; to state your name as you normally use it. My own choice is below:

Mohammed Amin (xxx@yyy.com)

Not stating your name will cause people to be suspicious about your bona fide nature, while being sloppy about its presentation (for example not capitalising it) makes you look unprofessional and under-educated. Few of us deliberately want to create that impression!

 

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