Thursday, March 14, 2013

Remove your email signature

Has the following ever happened to you? You write an email that asks two questions, and you get a reply only to the first. Or you send someone an informational email, talk to them afterward, and realize that they missed the last paragraph. This happens to me more frequently than I like.

I have a hypothesis. People miss the end of my emails because I don't have an email signature. They're so used to ignoring a block of text at the end of an email that my actual content is collateral damage.

So, for the good of society, I propose for everyone to remove their email signature. When it's there, you as the reader simply ignore it.

I've seen signatures that list the sender's phone numbers. I've seen signatures that include quotations from famous people. (At times, quotations from the sender that the sender believes are dripping with brilliant wisdom.) I've seen multi-paragraph signatures that raise a storm in a teacup about not disseminating the email without permission and deleting the email immediately if you're not the reader. In a particularly egregious case, I've seen a photo scan of someone's business card used as the signature. Actually, scratch that. The most egregious case is signatures that contain the sender's email address. Holy shit.

It's tempting to have a signature just in case someone wants—nay, needs!—your fax number. You may have been told by a well-meaning parent or significant other that a signature gives a professional appearance. Heck, you may have added a signature just because everyone else has one.

And why not? We don't pay by the word for email. Except it's not free. You're decreasing the value of your communications. You dilute your main point with a block of text that has absolutely nothing to do with it.

Worse, it signals to your reader that you value their time so little that you're going make them read a block of text that's guaranteed to be irrelevant. I don't take kindly to that.

Remove your email signature. Remove noise. Show your readers that you value their time. Make your content stand alone. And you ever doubt this decision, just ask: WWSJD?