The importance of email signatures

Over the last few weeks I’ve spotted a new trend at the University. Namely, the fashion for excluding email signatures from emails.

Now, I’m not talking about people I know well and who email me all the time. Nor am I talking about those folks who remove their email signatures after the first couple of messages in an email thread. (If I’ve sent you a couple of messages in that thread, it’s likely I now know who you are.)

No, I’m instead talking about those people whom I have never met or spoken to before, who send emails without one ounce of information about who they are and what they do. This post will look at why email signatures should be used, and what a University email signature should look like.

Not including an email signature in this situation is problematic for a number of reasons. The big one, is that it is incredibly unhelpful.

Say Luke asks Leia a question via email. Leia looks at the email and thinks “I’ll just ring them and let them know what to do”. Unfortunately, because Luke hasn’t included a phone number, Leia can’t quickly call him with the answer. Obviously Leia could look through the staff directory to find this out, but why should she? What if Leia is using a mobile device with poor connection to check emails – she’s not going to easily use the directory on that. Plus it feels like a waste of time. We all want to spend as little time with our emails as possible. Don’t we?

What to include

Now, I’m not asking for an email signature with more content than a Tolkien book, just include the basics:

  • name
  • job title
  • School/Department/Unit name
  • address
  • phone number(s)

The full criteria for a University email signature can be found on the corporate identity page (staff login required). On this page you’ll also find instructions on how to set up your University email signature along with the relevant images, including the Times and Sunday Times Good University Guide award logo, which all staff are encouraged to use.

When fully composed, your email signature should look like this:

What not to include

I’m sure at some point you’ve seen at least one email signature which broke with general standards and included all sorts of things such as fancy colours, deep and meaningful quotes, comic sans… etc. In the University, it is recommended that all superfluous content is removed, to improve user experience and help in terms of accessibility.

Remember, you don’t need to include your email address in your email signature…


IT Services have written a handy tip sheet on writing emails, and they end it with the following on email signatures:

“Always include a signature at the foot of the email, which includes your name and contact details, even to people who know you well, as it can save them time looking up your telephone number if they need to call you back. Keep your signature as short as you can.”

You can check if your email signature is meeting current corporate identity standards on the corporate identity pages in Digital standards. If you are having problems creating or updating an email signature, please contact itservicedesk@st-andrews.ac.uk

5 thoughts on “The importance of email signatures

  1. Here here, Maria! It’s so time consuming when you realise you have to call someone to respond to an email and they haven’t included a number at the bottom. Great post!
    Lauren Sykes
    Ext. 7227

  2. We deployed a tool called CodeTwo recently where the email signatures can be governed centrally using Active Directory data, with different rules depending on where the emails are being sent and from who… very cool and not that expensive…

    1. Hi Piero, that’s useful to know, thanks for bringing it to our attention! Right now we’re just using Outlook because it’s a University-wide tool available to everyone.

      I have heard that other universities have a tool that allows staff to just enter their name and it automatically creates the signature for them, which could fix a lot of problems! Something for us to consider in the future perhaps.

  3. Hi Maria,
    Great post! However, the lack of email address in the signature can be cause for frustration. Some email programs replace the address (to/from/cc) with the person’s real name, which means that when the message is forwarded, the original recipient/sender address is not included. Therefore, it’s helpful to include include one’s email address in the signature.
    Best,
    Toni

    1. Hi Toni, thanks for your feedback, you make a good point! Thankfully the system we use at St Andrews doesn’t replace the address, but it’s a good point to raise.

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