An e-mail extravaganza

by Francois Joseph de Kermadec

This is all so easy in the paper world: you take a good, thick, wet pen and proudly scribble your signature at the bottom of a white, shiny page. Signatures in the real world are easy: they reflect our true personality, can be changed and altered at whim until we attain the perfect shape we are after and deem truly unique or representative.

The e-mail world however has introduced many challenges. Indeed, compatibility issues, bandwidth requirements and the general lack of support for rich formatting in e-mails has reduced most of us to add “signatures” that are often no more than a couple lines of plain text.

The whole question then is what should this text be? Convention wants the first line of our signature to be “--”, followed by a space on a single line. Then, two or three lines, not exceeding 72 characters that should give a meaningful summary of who we are and what we do.

For example, the following is thought to be a proper signature:



Skateboarding instructor

Santa Clara, California, USA

+33 8 00 10 14 94

Now, let’s face it, it is rather dull — and this, by the way, is not my phone number. I know of very few users who actually comply with these ground rules: not only are they very strict, they paradoxically tell very little about our true personalities. Would you trust a skateboarding instructor that knows international calling codes and Postfix conventions by heart to embody cool and trendiness?

For this reason, many of us who wish to remind the other party of our fun, spontaneous side, will rely on randomized signatures, causing things like “This is national non-dairy creamer week.” to conclude an e-mail to our banker about a potential mortgage.

From ASCII art to links to our own sites and pages, we all have come up with unique signatures, trying to convey all the information we want, in as compatible a wording as possible, in as little space as we can humanely manage. In that, e-mail signatures have once again become something personal, the fruit of our very own craftsmanship.


2005-09-07 05:13:12
Any contact details better than nothing
"Would you trust a skateboarding instructor that knows international calling codes and Postfix conventions by heart to embody cool and trendiness?"

How woulod you reliably be able to contact one who doesn't?

My biggest peeve is people who routinely don't give any contact information. I've sometimes been in email contact with someone for a while and they're emailed asking me to call them - but they've never sent me their 'phone number.

Simon Hibbs
Contact details withheld(!)

2005-09-07 08:36:31
Any contact details better than nothing

First of all, thank you very much for taking the time to post and sharing your feelings with us! :^)

What you say is very true and effective e-mailing indeed requires a certain degree of familiarity with online conventions and procedures.

Giving full contact information is always a tricky problem as it opens doors wide for abuse but refraining from doing so can, as you so rightly highlight, backfire and make regular business transactions impossible. I guess keeping a personal site with that information handy and/or keeping carefully track of what we send to whom is the best way to smoothly handle the rocky ride that a long e-mail exchange can be.