Proper Email Etiquette for Business Signatures
In response to numerous requests to a recent series of posts covering proper email etiquette, the editors of AskTheManager.com decided it was time to put to rest the question on what should be included in a business email signature.
For those of you not familiar enough with Outlook to create your own email signature – hint: we’re describing the automatic “signature” at the bottom of every email so you don’t have to type it out each time – check out the excellent tutorial from Microsoft by clicking on this link or following the directions below:
Creating a Signature for Email Messages in Microsoft Outlook
- From the main Microsoft Outlook window, on the Tools menu, click Options, and then click the Mail Format tab.
- Under Compose in this message format list, click the message format that you want to use the signature with.
- Under Signature, click Signatures, and then click New.
- In the Enter a name for your new signature box, enter a name.
- Under Choose how to create your signature, select the option you want and then click Next.
- In the Signature text box, type the text you want to include in the signature.
Proper Etiquette for an Email Signature
Over the years we’ve seen so many bad email signatures used in business that we are compelled to help the masses create an email signature that doesn’t make them look like complete buffoons.
First, we need to explain that if you are in business and sending business related emails you MUST use an email signature. An email signature is not an option as it conveys many messages beyond your title. Not the least of which is that email signatures help recipients recall your company details and link to your website for more information.
Additionally, business people will frequently rely on an email signature for contact information. Often we find ourselves searching for the contact information of someone who corresponded with us on just a few occasions. We’ve never added this person to our Contacts list and we probably don’t intend to, but a colleague invariably asks for their contact information. If this person has included a proper email signature, we can easily cut and paste that information and forward it to our colleagues. If not, we are stuck digging through a pile of business cards.
While there are certainly variations of what should and should not be included in a proper email signature, the editors of AskTheManager.com believe the following items create the most acceptable business email signature for professionals in the new millennium:
First Name (especially used when your proper first name is commonly shortened)
Full Proper Name with Middle Initial
City, State and Zip Code
Fax Number (yes, some people still send these)
Web Address (if applicable)
Standard company disclaimer (generally in a smaller, italicized font)
Here’s a sample of what this might look like:
Robert L. Smith
Vice President, Sales & Marketing
1234 Any Street
Anytown, IL 60601
Office: (312) 555-1212
Mobile: (630) 555-1212
Fax: (312) 555-1211
AskTheManager.com and its affiliates will never sell, rent, or share your email address. This email and any files transmitted with it are the confidential property of AskTheManager.com and intended solely for use by the individual or entity to whom they are addressed. If you are not the intended recipient, please delete all copies.
In the example above, we used “Bob” for the first name entry because “Robert” is commonly shortened to “Bob.” If you prefer to go by “Robert,” you should spell this out in the first name line. If you don’t include a first name, those who don’t know you may assume (incorrectly) that you are called “Bob.” Including “Robert” in the first name line will help you avoid making new contacts feel uncomfortable when they call you “Bob” and you correct them with “it’s Robert.”
Sincerely Closing a Business Email
Some leaders will include their standard email complimentary closing automatically above the signature, though we recommend against this for a number of reasons. Primarily, we find ourselves equally using “Sincerely,” “Thank You,” “Thanks,” “Best Regards,” “Regards,” and “Best Wishes” in the emails we send. If we chose just one of these, more than half our emails would include a clumsy close.
For example, when sending a business email to someone with whom we have a close personal relationship we find ourselves using “Thanks” for the informal email and “Best Wishes” for the more formal communication. We would never want to include either of these for a first email to someone we’re never met. In those instances we’ll use either “Sincerely” or “Best Regards.” When we correspond with someone we don’t particularly care for, or when we are forced to admonish a vendor via email (not usually recommended), we will simply end with “Regards.”
Afterthoughts on Business Email Etiquette
In what should have been expected in a Murphy’s Law sort of way, it seems the use of email stationery has increased since our August series begged the business world to discontinue this. In the past two months, more than 3% of the emails we’ve received contained some form of vicious stationery that acts like malware as it attacks the format of our responses.
Unfortunately for us, we are too kind (or too busy) to personally explain to the offenders that the use of stationery is a business faux pas – they just seem so pleased with themselves that we don’t have the heart to tell them it looks amateur and impacts our ability to properly respond.
This brings up a great leadership lesson: don’t sweat the small stuff (and don’t ever tell your administrative assistant that he/she is classless.)