Shrinking Your Email Signature

Child holding a

A few weeks ago, I came across an early morning tweet from Kathleen linking to a post on the New York Times’ Gadgetwise blog that asks the world to “Stop the Signature-File Insanity.” In this post, Sam Grobart provided an example of a recent signature from an email he had received that was fifteen lines long and that included everything from title, address, email address, fax number, and an advertisement for an upcoming conference. As he rightly points out, some of this information is redundant: if someone is communicating with you by email, you probably don’t need to be reminded of what his email address is. And you very likely don’t need to know his address or fax number.

Grobart goes line by line through the signature to assess what information is necessary and what can be left out. He then takes the remaining six pieces of information and “add[s] a soupçon of design” to compress the information into two simple lines. The result is a clear and refreshingly short way to end an email.

Email is a necessary method of scholarly communication and something that ProfHacker has discussed on multiple occasions (see Natalie’s “From the Archives” post earlier this week that collected what we’ve said about email). The multiple affiliations and titles that we accrue make it difficult to sometimes get to the point. Having started a new job over the summer, I had recently grappled with this as I updated my own email signature. After some tooling around, I arrived at the following:

Brian Croxall, Ph.D.
CLIR Postdoctoral Fellow
Emerging Technologies Librarian
Emory University


I was pretty happy with this. It had my title, my institutional affiliation, and the two places where I wanted people to find me online: my website and Twitter.

But once I read Grobart’s post, I found myself thinking that while seven lines is far better than fifteeen, two lines is far better than seven. Since my own design skills don’t even amount to a soupçon, I decided that I would adapt Grobart’s style to my own signature. All six pieces of information were important, but I could live without the extra spaces. The result is the following:

Brian Croxall, Ph.D. | Emory University | CLIR Postdoctoral Fellow
Emerging Technologies Librarian | | @briancroxall

It might not be all that original, but I like my new signature. And when combined with my text expansion software, it’s very easy to choose when and where I want to append it. That means that I don’t include even these two extra lines when they aren’t necessary. And if I feel like keeping both signatures at the ready, I can do so with that tool or by building custom signatures in Gmail.

We’ve all suffered through too-long closers to emails. Have you taken steps to shrink your signature? Can you share your signature with us? (Feel free to anonymize your information!)

[Lead image by Flickr user Kevin Copps / Creative Commons licensed]

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