Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Signing off

A recent post at Information Week has me wondering if my e-mail signature is too long.

I have been told that it is. Believe it or not, I once got an e-mail from a man who said, "Here's a tip: People find long e-mail signatures annoying." Since the guy had written to me for advice on formatting his women's fiction novel (yes, really) for submission to a publisher--and I had taken the time to answer him--it was difficult not to be offended by his hint that I had wasted his time with my pushy advertising. But such is the nature of the internet. If there weren't a few cranks out there, I might forget how much I appreciate all of you nice people.

My hunk o' burnin' love has one of those ridiculously long disclaimers appended to all of his e-mails, and he's not even an attorney. Because I've gotten so used to seeing and ignoring dire warnings of that ilk, I almost missed this very clever closer that someone calling himself "McLovin" left in the comments on the Information Week post:

Notice: This e-mail is confidential and should not be used by anyone who is not the original intended recipient. It should not be photocopied, transmitted via walkie-talkie, CB radio, satellite dish, cable TV, overhead projector, smoke signal, Morse code, pig Latin, sign language, short hand, or any other means. This e-mail is under no circumstances to be translated into French. This e-mail is not to be ridiculed, mocked, judged in a competition, or read aloud in funny accents while wearing fake mustaches and/or hats of any sort including, but not limited to, bandanas. Do not taunt or provoke this e-mail. People taking certain prescription medications may experience nausea, dizziness, hysteria, vomiting, and temporary loss of short term memory while reading this e-mail. Please consult your physician before reading this e-mail. All models depicted in this email are 18 years of age or older. If you have received this e-mail in error it's probably because I was drinking when I typed the e-mail address.

That's telling 'em.

I'm afraid my own e-mail signature isn't nearly as entertaining:

Brenda Coulter

Can a home-loving worrywart find happiness with a world-traveling extreme sportsman? Find out in A SEASON OF FORGIVENESS, coming in October from Steeple Hill Love Inspired.

Read a long excerpt and view the book trailer at

Sign up for my newsletter by sending a blank e-mail to:

Check out my blog, "No rules. Just write."

How long is too long for an e-mail signature? Have your say in the Comments, and leave a sample of your own e-mail signature if you want it critiqued. (Perhaps you'll want to X-out certain information for privacy reasons.)


Hope Chastain said...

LOL Brenda! That first one is too funny! I don't think yours is too long.

My signature consists of links to my webpages, and that's about it. Very dull, really! Oh, and a quote:
"More things are wrought by prayer than this world dreams of." Tennyson
Then the links are spread out underneath, so it should only take up two lines. (Of course, I'm not published yet, so I don't have a book to plug!) ;-)

Melissa said...

I like the disclaimer you quoted. It's definitely good for a few laughs considering several of the prohibited actions are almost 100% unlikely to happen anyway. Well back to my "signatures" and yes thats plural on purpose. I actually have two unique signatures based on who I am sending to and why. At times I use no signature at all and when I use my personal signature I edit the contact information according to who is receiving the email and what I am willing to make "public knowledge" in that arena. Nothing exciting really just name, affiliation, and contact information for "official correspondence" and Name and contact info for personal when I actually include any signature.

Hornblower said...

I differentiate between the corporate sig line which goes like this:

Judith A. Pompous, B.L.A.H, B.L.A.H., etc important qualifications
Superior Executive and Consultant
Esteemed Educational Facility
Great Town, Canada
Postal code,
Phone number
cell number

I use something like that professionaly. Then I sign my e-mails with a j. and all the full info is below it.

As far as author sig lines - which I view as promotional as opposed to informational, I find if they're over 3 lines, I glaze over.

I'd stick with
line 1 - name
line 2- website address, maybe with a 'cheer' like "updates, contests & blog!"
line 3 - current release title & a BRIEF review quote or 'RT 4 stars!' or New York Times Bestseller!

Vicki said... email sig is just my name. On my personal, family-only email, I have an angel under my name (I collect unique angels). That's it.

Brenda, your signature is fine. It's not too long at all! When I see those long drawn-out statement of confidentiality signatures (the ones that resemble the first one you wrote) I tend to just skim over those. I almost did the same with this one...glad I didn't!!!

Brenda Coulter said...

Yanno, I can't understand why people get so worked up over long signatures. After all, every e-mail provider includes an ad at the bottom of the message, and we've learned to ignore those, right? How difficult is it, really, to determine when an e-mail message is over--and then stop reading?

I'm finished worrying about my long signature. Some people do want that information, and since I have no way of knowing who's interested and who's not, I'll just continue to include it.

Hope, Melissa, Hornblower, and Vicki, thanks for commenting.

Shauna said...

Hmmm, I don't even know how to get a signature. Is it something you create in your e-mail account and can add with the click of a button? Otherwise it seems tedious to type it all out.

I did, however, finally learn how to put italics in this comment box. LOL!

Kristin said...

Oh, yours is very long, Brenda. I don't think you need to explain each link or email. I would just reduce it to this:

A SEASON OF FORGIVENESS coming October 2007 from Steeple Hill (is it Press or Publishing or something else?)

And I'd probably leave off the part about the newsletter. I mean, most people would know to go to your website for more info, they would find out about the book trailer, your newsletter, etc.

And people don't need to be directed to 'check out my blog.' They will just click if curious.

I was a tech writer before I wrote books. Short and to the point is always best when trying to convey information like this.


Brenda Coulter said...

Shauna, once you set up a signature file, that info is automatically appended to every message you send.

Kristin, thanks for the advice. I considered it for a minute and then thought, Nah.

More than 90% of the e-mails I send are responses to strangers who have contacted me because they want something. I use those opportunities to tell my blog readers about the website, my website readers about the blog, and my book readers about the newsletter--because those three audiences don't overlap nearly as much as you might think.

Just listing my URLs and my upcoming book's title isn't advertising them. And anyone who resents my advertising those things in a return e-mail should perhaps remind themselves that it was darn nice of me to respond at all.

When I initiate an e-mail exchange, I delete parts or all of my sig file becuse sending that stuff unsolicited feels a little obnoxious. But anyone who e-mails to ask me to check out their blog or help them plan a tea party or give them some writing advice is going to get the long signature.

Kristin said...

Ah, well now you describe *how* you use your signature file...that makes more sense. Different if every little email you sent out to anyone and everyone had this long signature.

You do what you's *your* sig, right?

I don't think I've ever complained or told anyone their sig is too long. I don't care. Wonder why you got that negative response??

Like I said, I'm a more concise kind of person when it comes to stuff like that. If it's a web address or blog address, kind of implies I'd like you visit and take a look. Some people have a more folksy way of promoting themselves...and that must be who you are, Brenda.


Anonymous said...

I belong to some yahoo loop groups and find it very annoying with forwarding and such when I can't find the text that the writer wrote. Too many times, the text is one or two sentences and the signatures lines are longer than the message.

It's especially annoying when getting digest and many e-mails are strung together.

Brenda, yours is a bit long and I would just skip over it all anyway. Most annoying is when someone plugs a book from years ago that is not even available.

In my professional work office, we laugh at those long sig lines and say that the bigger the signature line, the bigger the ego.

Brenda Coulter said...

belong to some yahoo loop groups and find it very annoying with forwarding and such when I can't find the text that the writer wrote.

I know what you mean, Anonymous, because I belong to eight or ten writers' loops. I don't use my long signature there. As a matter of fact, on a couple of the loops, we're limited to signatures including our names and then just two other lines.