Why email signatures are dumb

Flickr user Jim Hammer

(MoneyWatch) COMMENTARY  Do email signatures anger you? Perhaps that's an unusual question -- after all, how can one of those boilerplate sign-offs that you see a hundred times each day generate an emotional response? Particularly a strongly negative one?

Well, this isn't new ground here at MoneyWatch. I've written about signatures before, such as when I recommended avoiding "Sent from my iPhone."Recently, I ran across and amusing article in sports blog Deadspin, "How to not piss off the world with your email signature." The article (which sensitive readers should know contains strong language) makes a good point that there's no reason to use signatures at all, and their very presence can be annoying to a lot of people.

In principle, I agree with Deadspin. There are few, if any, compelling reasons to add a boilerplate signature to your email message, and it is probably safer to leave it off. You won't offend anyone by the lack of a signature, while almost anything you do write can be interpreted as cloying, annoying, rude, or condescending. I know some of you are saying, "people should get a thicker skin." Perhaps, but you have a vested interest in keeping the people you email happy. You wouldn't risk offending a client or your boss with an offensive joke. Why do it with an email signature?

Consider these old standbys that commonly appear in an email sig:

Email address. With rare exception, anyone who gets your message has your email address by virtue of having the email. Putting an address at the bottom is a waste of space and can be seen as stupidly redundant.

Quotes. I'm completely with Deadspin on this. There's no upside to a quote -- it will likely be saccharine, offend some readers, or consist of some annoying aphorism.

Images. Images, like your corporate logo, break and get delivered as attachments so frequently and on so many different email systems that you should just assume images will never render correctly.

Sent from my iPhone. Or any of its variations. If you intend this to mean, "sorry for the brevity and typos, but I'm sending this from my cell phone while standing on the bus," it won't be received that way, you tech snob.

Please consider the environment before printing this email. Look up "condescending" in the dictionary. You'll see this sentence in the definition.

Are there others? What email signatures annoy you? Which variations do you find acceptable? Or do you disagree with my whole premise? Sound off in the comments and share your thoughts about email signatures.

Photo courtesy of Flickr user Jim Hammer

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