Your Business Email Signature: What to Include (and What to Leave Out)

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email signatures

Your business email signature is the last thing someone sees when they read your email. Creating a good impression, not to mention relaying useful information, comes down your business email sig striking a balance of being professional, informative, useful, cordial—and concise.

Whether contact information, legal disclaimers, or good ole inspirational quotations, it’s not always easy to know what to include and what to leave out. (Oh, and nowadays, making sure your sig is mobile-optimized is also essential.)

Luckily, we’re breaking it all down for you below. By the time you’ve put to work these simple best practices, you’ll have a business email signature that is as professional as you are.

Today’s email sigs must be mobile-optimized

What you include in your business email signature is important, but so is understanding how your email is likely being read.

Over the past few years, email use has skyrocketed on mobile devices such as smartphones. In 2018, 64.6 percent of emails were opened on a mobile device, not a desktop or notebook computer. That number continues to increase.

When it comes to setting up and formatting your email signature, mobile optimization is essential:

Use font sizes and white space that makes it easy for someone to tap a phone number or link.

Use a sans-serif font. Fonts without serifs (little lines or other ornamentation on the ends of a letter or number) are easier to read on mobile screens.

Aim for no more than four lines of text. This keeps your signature concise and easy to read.

No more than 72 characters per line. More than that and lines may wrap (especially on phones), which can make display wonky.

One contact detail per line. Shorter lines make it easier for the recipient to read your information. Long lines can make for weird technical rendering or difficult reading.

When you have your signature all set up, make sure you actually look at an email message on your phone to get a sense of what it really looks like.

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What should your email signature include?

A typical office worker sends 10,000 emails per year. Each message is a chance to be front-of-mind with the recipient, whether they are a customer, colleague, or prospect. Each message also contains your email signature. And, if something is going to be seen 10,000 times, you want it to be solid.

As with so many things, simple is often best. Here are some best practices on what to include:

Your first and last name

There’s no question about who you are if you say who you are. Make sure your email signature includes your first and last name.

Your title and organization

Even for internal email, it’s good to have this information. Just like including your full name, listing your title and organization means the recipient knows exactly who you are, which provides further context on why you’re writing. Make your company name a link to your company’s website.

Your primary contact information

This doesn’t have to be every way imaginable to get in touch. Include only a couple of main ways, such as your office and/or mobile phone numbers (but not your email address—obviously, the recipient will have that since, you know, they got your email). A mailing or office address may also be useful, depending on your field. If there is a social network that you are are very active on, feel free to include that, but you don’t need to link to every network where you have an account.

One image, such as a small headshot or company logo

Typically, you’ll want to choose one or the other. A logo or headshot can reinforce trust, expertise, and professionalism; a headshot, in particular, can help “humanize” you to the recipient.

Make sure the HTML for the image includes an “alt” attribute, which is text that displays if the image doesn’t. For a logo, “alt text” could be your company name along with a tagline; for a headshot, alt text could be a quick tagline that reflects your expertise or experience, such as “Selling homes like yours since 2003”.

Colors that match organization branding and meet your organization’s brand standards

Basic black or blue are always effective in a signature, but if your organization has a particular branding color, feel free to work that into elements such as links. Check with marketing or HR to make sure you are following any particular brand guidelines too.

Other options you might include

Sometimes your business email sig may need a little something else. There could be a special company promotion that you want to give extra attention to, or maybe you want to spotlight a free report or other sales tool.

Here are 6 options to consider:

  1. Link to your newsletter signup
  2. Link to your company’s blog
  3. Top business-related social media links platforms (ones the company actively uses)
  4. Skype or FaceTime handle
  5. Link to portfolio
  6. Call to action (e.g., free report, free consultation, new product, limited-time special, and so on)

Leave these things out of your email signature

Some things may sound like a good idea for an email signature, but they’re simply not. In fact, including some things in your email signature not only can be unprofessional turn-offs, but they can also even prevent your email from being delivered—or cause it to go into the dreaded spam folder.

Leave these things out of your email signature (and, honestly, out of your email altogether):

Animation

Animated gifs, embedded videos, blinking graphics, or anything else involving motion is a non-starter. They can be distracting and annoying—not exactly a good way to leave a favorable impression. Outlook and other email platforms commonly used for business also typically don’t render these types of graphics or videos. At best, your sig will look wonky and broken because graphics aren’t showing up. At worst, your email may get blocked by the recipient’s email server.

All your sig info in one big image

A small logo or headshot is fine, but rolling up your entire sig into one big graphic presents similar problems to animation. If the image doesn’t display, the recipient won’t see your info. If the image does display, they can’t tap to dial your phone number or copy your information into their contacts. If the image has a large file size, that can also slow down the email, get it blocked, or send your email into the junk folder.

Lots of colors

Too much color can come off as distracting and unprofessional. Stick to one color, along with a basic black or blue, and again, remember to use color in accordance with the company’s branding guidelines.

Shortened links

Yes, a shortened link is awfully convenient. But they can be a spam trigger. Typically a simple link to your homepage will suffice. Or, if there is a longer link you’d like to include, ask your IT department to set up a redirect on the company’s domain. That way a short link in your email (e.g., company.com/buyingguide) will take the recipient to the full link.

Political, religious, or personal statements

If it’s something your organization considers not appropriate for business communications, then it has no place in your email signature.

What about quotations?

We’ve all seen them: The inspirational/motivational quotation that’s intended to be uplifting, and/or subtly point out how the person with the quote in this sig can be the person who helps the recipient achieve that lofty quoted goal.

Now let’s be honest: Has seeing a quotation in an email sig done anything to make your more favorable to the sender? (Especially when you’ve also likely seen the same quotation in a fair few other emails?)

Quotations in a signature can seem like a good idea, that at least does no harm. But honestly, they don’t do much good. More often than not, quotations in your signature are clutter that distracts from other, more important information. That seemingly harmless quotation can also make you look unprofessional—or be interpreted in a way that’s not what you intended.

That said, there are exceptions. If you or your company are celebrating a milestone, you might include a quick line on that, such as “Celebrating 50 years serving Southwestern Virginia!” Company mottos or well-wishing holidays messages can also be effective.

Overall though, anything in your signature needs to add value, and quotations simply don’t. Maybe work a good quote or two into some of your other discussions or negotiations, but leave them out of your email signature.

The disclaimer on legal disclaimers

For starters, if your organization requires a disclaimer in email, then that choice is made for you. Likewise, federal or state law may require companies in certain industries, such as healthcare or financial services, to include particular disclaimers in their emails.  

For everyone else, though, the longer-than-the-email, at-the-bottom-of-the-message disclaimer is probably not going to do you any good. In order for any contract to be legally binding, both parties have to agree to its terms—and simply receiving or reading an email doesn’t constitute the recipient’s agreement.

Disclaimers typically don’t do any harm, but they are not bulletproof fix-all solutions either. Where disclaimers can be most effective is in preventing the impression that an email is a contract, and that emails mistakenly sent to the wrong person should be deleted.

Typically the simplest disclaimer is the most effective. A simple disclaimer could include terms such as:

  • “This email is only for discussion purposes and cannot be used to create a binding contract.”
  • “If you received this email in error, please delete it.”
  • “This email and its contents are confidential.”

Should you use an email signature generator?

Email signature generators can be a handy, simple way to set up an attractive, mobile-optimized sig. Pricing and features vary.

You may also want to consider asking your organization to set up a standard format for all employees to use:

Set up your sig

Whether in Gmail, Outlook, or Outpost, it’s easy to set up an attractive, reader-friendly business email signature.

A few quick tips:

  1. Either align your logo/headshot left
  2. Have other details next to or below the logo/headshot
  3. Order by name, title, company, contact details, links, and any call to action

Need help setting up your sig? Here a few links to help for common email apps:

A signature as professional as you

Your email signature is vital—but it’s not complicated.

As long as are including your most important business contact information in a mobile-friendly format, you can quickly set up a business email signature that is as professional as you are.

Posted in Email

Anthony St. Clair

Anthony St. Clair

Anthony St. Clair is a business copywriter, author of the Rucksack Universe travel fantasy series, and a craft beer writer specializing in Oregon. Learn more at anthonystclair.com.