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Email Signatures

A guide to creating professional, effective sign-offs

This guide will give you an overview of how email signatures work, what they do, and ensure good practice when you use them. It was created with input from a number of University units which have an interest and expertise in this area.

Information Policy Management and Services (IMPS) aim to ensure that University staff present accurate information that complies with University policy and UK law.

The Digital Development Team (DDT) are responsible for the University's digital presence and can advise on presenting digital information in a way that is effective from a technical and usability perspective.

The Design & Print Studio (DPS) ensure that the University looks professional in all its communications, both internally and externally.

Information Technology Services (ITS) manage the University's digital infrastructure

 

The purpose of email signatures

Email signatures can perform a range of functions, both administrative and promotional. Helping staff create a simple, short signature to by balancing out these functions is the goal of this guide.

Signatures should:

give basic information about you and your role, demonstrating legitimacy.

provide alternative contact information (like a web address or a phone number)

be simple:

  • Complicated information may be ignored.
  • Complicated formatting and design may well not appear as expected (or at all) when your recipient views your message.
  • Shorter, simple messages save network bandwidth and save paper if printed.

Signatures should not:

provide personal information or reflect personal opinions or tastes.

include images, attachments, colours, special fonts or other HTML formatting

 

What to include in your signature

There is no single perfect signature. Instead you should select items from the list below that suit your needs. Including everything may well be overkill, so be selective.

Signatures must include:

Your name

Your role at the University.
Remember that you do not need to list the complete structure of your office, department, school and faculty. You only need to mention the lowest point in the structure that is relevant in this context.

Your telephone number, internationalised and displayed in easily readable 'chunks' eg ' +44 (0) 118 378 1234'

The web address of your unit

 

Signatures may include:

Additional contact information such as fax, twitter, facebook etc, as long as these are professional not personal accounts.

Working hours, particularly if you work part-time. This helps recipients understand if they do not quickly hear back from you.

Notice of upcoming planned absences. This helps recipients prioritise you messages in accordance with your availability.

Abbreviated prefixes like 'm', 't' and 'f' for 'Mobile, 'telephone' and 'fax'. These are useful to help differentiate these similar numbers.

Tailored messaging to specific audiences:

You can set-up multiple signatures so that you can adjust the information for different recipients. A signature for undergraduate applicants might feature a link to www.reading.ac.uk/ug; a signature for research queries might link to www.reading.ac.uk/research

Using signatures for some light promotional purposes is fine, but keep it simple

 

Signatures should not normally include:

Any kind of decorative or complex formatting, pictures, colours, backgrounds or columns structure

Custom fonts. Let your email client use its 'default' or 'body' font for your signature. This ensures that you will not be forcing your recipient to use a font that they do not have (which can result in their computer selecting a potentially inappropriate alternative).

Logos or accreditations of any kind (including the University Device or Investors in People logos)

Any line of text greater than 72 characters. Above this amount, there is a risk that email clients will reformat your message and break the line in a strange place.

Any kind of 'green' or environmental message (unless it relates to the purpose of the email). These kinds of message can often be very long and thus counterproductive, leading to a longer page count and wasted paper.

Your email address, as that is included at the start of the message. Removing the email address also allows you to use the same signature from different email accounts.

Your physical address, unless useful to your recipient. Again, multiple signatures can be useful here. If you do need a physical address, save space by putting it on one line.

Lines of dashes to separate different elements of the signature.
These dashes will be interpreted differently by different email clients and are therefore unreliable.

References to virus scanning or security.
These are not necessary and send a negative message. Contact IMPS for more information: imps@reading.ac.uk

Detailed 'company' information. The University is not bound by standard UK law forcing public companies to list certain information in their email signatures (like company number, registered address, VAT number), though these regulations may apply for staff working in companies that have been spun out of the University. Contact IMPS for more information: imps@reading.ac.uk

v-cards. These 'digital business cards' are not yet an industry standard and can confuse recipients. Only use one if you are sure the person you are writing to will understand what to do with it.

Complex or redundant prefixes

'http://' is almost never needed before a web address

'e' before an email address or 'w' before a web address are redundant and should be removed

 

Examples of good practice

The simple approach (minimum length)

Mike Walton-Harvey
Professor of Hydro-dynamics, Department of Hydrology
+44 (0) 118 378 1234    www.reading.ac.uk/hydrology

  • Four space characters separate the contact info rather than additional line breaks (which may consume paper).
  • No fax number or mobile is shown, as this person does not want to encourage these channels of communication.

The lengthy exception (maximum length)

Mike Walton-Harvey
Professor of Hydro-dynamics, Department of Hydrology

University of Reading, 4 Earley Gate, Whiteknights, Reading, RG6 6AA
t: +44 (0) 118 378 1234    m: +44 (0) 7999 123 456    f: +44 (0) 118 456 7890    www.reading.ac.uk/hydrology
facebook: UniRdg_Movingwater    twitter: @UniRdg_hydro
Please note, I am part-time and only work Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays.

Our new on-line tour is now live, visit www.reading.ac.uk/hd/hd-tour.aspx

  • Keeps the address on one line
  • 't', 'm' and 'f' prefixes mark out the different contact methods. The web address does not need a 'w' as there is no ambiguity in what it does.
  • Colons help separate the prefix from the actual information.
  • Part-time hours are flagged close to contact info.
  • Social media links are given their own line. They use the standard University prefix of 'UniRdg_' to show that they are official University feeds.
  • Simple promotional message is separated by a blank line to give it some prominence

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Last Edited: 19 April 2016 | First Published: 15 June 2011

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