Email Signature Format: Best Practices and Tips for Professional Correspondence

emailsignatureformatIt may be the last thing you think about when you’re sending an email, but your signature is an important part of the overall package. Regardless of whether you intend it to, it contributes to how you represent yourself (and your company) and the impression you make on your recipients. So it certainly isn’t something you want to overlook.

This article will give you some pointers on making sure you get across the right message with your email signature. Then, for more detailed guidance on writing effective professional correspondence, you might try a course on business writing. 

First things first: automate your signature formatting

To make sure you consistently get the formatting right and make your signature look as good as possible, you will want to take advantage of automation features that come standard with most email clients. You can define a default signature and even create multiple signatures to select from when you compose new emails. After you set this up, you won’t have to recreate the wheel or rely on copying and pasting each time.

Here is a brief walkthrough on setting up your signature in Microsoft Outlook:

1. Open a new, blank email message

2. Make sure the Message tab is selected, and find Signature in the Include group.

3. Click on signature, and then click signatures from the drop down box that appears.

4. In the Signatures and Stationary menu that comes up, select New. This will bring up a text box where you will give the signature a name.

5. Name your signature, and click OK.

6. Your new signature should now be highlighted in the Signatures and Stationary menu. If you want to set your new signature as your default for new messages and/or replies, select it from the drop down menus on the upper right.

7. Design and format your signature. Click OK when you are done (but not before you finish reading this tips!)

If you are setting this up to be your default signature, it will be the element that Outlook includes as the signature for all of your new messages, unless you direct it to use something else. So you will want to take your time, think it through, and apply best practices. The remaining tips will help guide you through that.

If you are unfamiliar with this and other features of the Outlook program, you may want to brush up your skills. As email communication takes up a large portion of the average workday, you could benefit from strategies to help you save time. Consider an Outlook course online to start mastering the program.

Keep it compact by limiting the number of lines

As is true for most business writing, it is important to be concise with your email signature, and you will want to reflect this both in the information you choose and how you structure the layout.

Rather than stretching your signature out vertically by creating a new line for every piece of information, make use of symbols, such as the vertical bar “|” or colons “::” to combine lines. This is particularly useful in formatting for your address, and you might also use it to separate your name and title.  Here is an example:

John Doe | Account Executive

Fictional Corp.

123 N. Business Dr. | Anytown, USA | 12345

When it comes to your contact details, you might also use this approach. However, many well designed signatures leave out separators completely, as in the example below:

phone: 555-123-4567 mobile: 555-234-5678 fax: 555-123-4321

Consider a few hyperlinks

Even though your email address will come through with your message, it is a standard expectation in business to include the information in your signature. One good way of doing this is with a link. You might also consider a link to the company’s (or your own) website. Again, consider formatting this with the vertical bar separator, as follows:

email | Website

When you create these in your Outlook signature, you will define the hyperlinks for this text using the hyperlink tool.

You might also consider one or two additional links, such as a link to a brochure or the corporate blog. But remember to keep it to the most relevant links, and more than four links is likely too many.

Think twice about the social media links

It might make sense for you to include a link to your LinkedIn profile or professional Twitter account if that is a method of contact you use regularly and want recipients to use. However, you won’t want to add social media links just to have them, and you especially don’t want them for accounts you use other than for professional purposes.

If you are campaigning to increase social media engagement for your company and could benefit from some professional guidance, you might consider taking a course in social media for business growth.

If you are including images, use them sparingly.

We know that images enhance communications. You may have heard, for instance, that people are 90% more likely to click on visual content, as opposed to simple text, on social media channels. Images certainly have their place in email communications as well, but to use them effectively, you want to know the ins and outs of working with them in html. If that is of interest to you, you might benefit greatly from a course on building html emails.

However, when you are using standard tools in an email client for business correspondence,  there are some major drawbacks to loading up your email signature with images. Consider the following:

1. Images increase the file size of the email you are sending. You don’t want to overload your recipient’s inbox. Keep the image content small, and don’t feel compelled to use the high resolution graphics.

2. Images might render oddly in the recipient’s inbox. Since ultimately you are sending html content, images may or may not render the way you want them to, and they could make the message less effective by throwing it out of its format.

3. Images are very likely not to load automatically. Recipients will need to tell the email client to load them, which they may not do.

4. Images containing any contact details can’t be used to copy that information. You will essentially be throwing a barrier up between you and the recipient in terms of follow-up contact.

So ultimately, you will want to be thoughtful about how you incorporate images in your standard emails, if you are going to use them at all.

In summary

These tips should help you build a professional and attractive email signature that lets you come across the way you intended in all of your professional correspondence.  If you want to keep building your skills and mastering professional communications, don’t forget to bookmark some of the links provided.  For now, go write that email!