Email Best Practices

Email signatures: What are the rules?

Your email signatures speak volumes about your knowledge of email in general. Here are a few rules to follow.

Hermes and Hera with mailbox



Today, we aren’t going to discuss transactional or marketing email, APIs, Hackathons, or even deliverability! No, today we are going back to real email, exchanged between people. Because yes, people exchange emails, and in fact, they share quite a lot. Personal emails a little, but also emails exchanged for work, and sometimes to excess.

You, the person sending me an email, who are you?

Unless you already directly know your correspondent, it isn’t always clear who he/she is. This is why the civilized world invented the signature. This has nothing to do with a signature you write on a contract or official document. No, in an email, the signature is used primarily to give more information about the interlocutor.

For example:

  • What is your role within the company;

  • How to reach you by telephone;

  • How to follow you on social networks;

  •  ...and many other details

A signature longer than my arm

…or at least longer than the content of my email. These days, the email signature is used for many things. And sometimes, too many. In some companies, employee signatures look more like mail order catalogs. You can find the latest job offers posted by the company, the date of the next corporate event, a logo, links to 17 different social networks…until you forget the main point: Who am I communicating with and how can I reach him/her outside of email?

Nevertheless, there are rules

In 1995, Sally Hambridge published RFC 1855 under the title “Netiquette Guidelines.” This document attempts to outline a series of best practices concerning communication on the Internet and computer networks. What drove Sally Hambridge to write this document was the increasing number of new users appearing on the Internet at the time. Basically, before the 1990s, Internet users had technical knowledge of the tool and its limitation. However, the “newbies” of the 90s were not aware of this culture, and they needed to be educated.

18 years later, even if certain parts are obsolete because of the evolution of technology, netiquette remains to be universally relevant. In certain milieu, primarily amongst developers, it is still often referenced in the event that certain lines are crossed.

So what about email signatures?

Netiquette attaches great importance to email; a little less than ¼ of the text is devoted to this topic.


  • “In order to ensure that people know who you are, be sure to include a line or two at the end of your message with contact information.”

  • “If you include a signature keep it short.  Rule of thumb is no longer than 4 lines.”

  • “Again, be sure to have a signature which you attach to your message.”

If we are not limited to what is written in this version of netiquette (there are several circulating the Internet), we can identify a few other rules that are commonly accepted:

1. No images in signatures in order to keep email size light (although this rule is seldom respected by companies);

2. Start the signature by a double hyphen followed by a space (“— “);

3. Limit the signature length to 72 characters

What about you? What do you think of these rules? Out of date or still relevant?

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