Entry-Level Career Advice: The Science Behind Your E-Mail Signature

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Sending an email. It’s something we all tend to take for granted – after all, it’s become a regular part of our lives.

But message interpretation has been around far longer than the internet, and it’s not something that’s going to go away. Whether they’re aware of it or not, your email recipients are interpreting (and possibly misinterpreting) each message you send.

Even your email signature isn’t exempt from this scrutiny. There shouldn’t be much of a science behind it, but there is. The question is when are you being too casual or too formal and what should you use in each case? This article breaks it down for you.

Casual versus formal

In simple terms, a casual signature may simply state a word such as “cheers, thanks, yours truly, kindly,” followed by your name. These are all slang, informal communications. A formal signature or sign-off may include terms like “Sincerely” and include your full contact information and name, title, etc. Here are a couple examples:

Casual:

      Cheers,
      Lauren

Formal:

      Sincerely,
      Lauren Marinigh
      Content Contributor
      TalentEgg.ca
      (415) 123-4567

When to use what

Now on to the hard part—when should you use casual sign-offs versus formal ones? As a disclaimer, this is going to entirely depend on the relationship you have with the person you are communicating with, but these guidelines may help you determine what’s best.

Managers
When communicating with your personal manager, you may have the type of relationship where you can sign-off casually with just your name. They know you after all, so signing off too formally may come off a bit strange. If you are communicating with other managers in your organization that aren’t directly yours, include your full signature—this way you come off professional, and they know all your contact information. Remember, if you work in a large company, you can’t expect everyone to remember your title or what you do!

Colleagues
Similar to how you would communicate with managers, you may adapt a more casual sign-off with your teammates, and more formal for those outside your department. A good guideline is to judge how the person emails you. If your colleague emails you formally then it’s best to meet their character and respond formally back.

Outside Professionals
This one is pretty simple – if you are communicating with outside professionals that don’t work within your organization, stick to formal sign-offs. This goes for when you are applying for jobs, or when you are working somewhere that involves you reaching out to external people. Not only does it show professionalism, but it also gives some context of who you are. After the initial email communication, you can judge in their response how you should move forward.

One thing to keep in mind is that some people get hundreds of emails a day, so you can’t always expect them to remember who you are. If you email the same person again a month later, you may want to add your full signature again.

What to include

When building a formal signature, there are a few important components to include. First and most importantly, don’t include the information of your workplace in your personal email signature – that’s what your work email is for! Instead, under your name include a title that describes what you do.

For example, I work as a Social Media & Content Coordinator in my current workplace, so in my personal email signature, I write that I’m a Social Media Marketing Professional. Following your descriptive title, include your contact information and any relevant other links that they may be interested in (like your LinkedIn profile, social media links, and/or portfolio). Here’s an example:

Personal email:

      Lauren Marinigh
      Social Media Marketing Professional
      (416) 123-4567
      www.laurenmarinigh.com
      @MarinighPR

When sending out any email, it’s important that you don’t ignore the signature. Would an author write a book without a proper ending? Definitely not. So take the time to get a signature that works well with you, and most importantly judge how to respond by reading the vibe of the recipient. Just like how you would read someone’s body language when meeting them, the same goes for e-communication!

How do you sign off your professional emails? Share your tips in the comments!

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