Where Email Etiquette Says Your Signature Should Be

Where to put your email signature
Two ways to position your email signature. Apple, Inc.

Your email signature is no longer than 4 to 5 lines of text, of course, and it contains the standard signature delimiter for good measure and email etiquette. Your signature is no wider than 75 characters, to be sure, and it has all the wit in it that is also in you (which is a lot). Now, where do you put that signature in emails?

Fortunately, placing your signature is probably the easiest part of having it in your emails, and that is not only—not chiefly even—because there are no clear-cut rules for this part of email etiquette.

I gather the most appropriate place for your signature is right where you would sign a written letter.

Where You Should Put Your Email Signature

Put your email signature:

  • right below the end of your text—in replies as well as in new messages.
  • Do this both in email you send professionally and those going to family and friends.
    • Do consider, though, not using a signature at all in private messages; you do not want to come across as selling them anything, do you?
    • In replies, no signature or a condensed one are also good options; the recipient does, after all, already know you.

In practice, email signature placement will be like this:

  • If you include original messages using indentation and selective quoting, your signature will usually be right at the bottom of the message.
  • If you quote lazily by putting your message on top of the (un-fragmented) original message, your signature will usually be between your message and the original message you quote, just above the "--Original Message--" line.

    Email Signature Placement Mistakes You Should Avoid

    Like most anything in life, however harmless, positioning your email signature is not without potential pitfalls. Fortunately, these are easily avoided; do not make these mistakes:

    • Signature on top, reply in line below: readers are conditioned, as well they should be, not to look far beyond any signature they encounter. If your email program or service is set up to put your signature on top of quoted text in replies and forwards, do not write anything into the quoted text. Chances are, recipients will puzzle over your empty reply reply—but possibly not long enough to find your answers in the quoted portion.
      Do this instead: reply above the signature, or move the signature to the very bottom.
    • Signature at the very bottom, reply all on top: if you reply on top, but your email signature is at the bottom, recipients will either never see the signature (why, then is it there?), or, if they see it, the signature can send them hunting for in-line reply text they might have missed.
      Do this instead: move the signature above the quoted part and below your reply.

    How Long Your Signature Should Be

    No matter where your signature is positioned, if it exceeds a reasonable height, it can quickly become disturbing. What is reasonable, though?

    It is best to

    • limit a signature's size to 4–6 lines of text.

    PS: Postscripta

    Naturally, positioning your signature in the suggested places, gives you the option to include post-scripts (PS:) right below it.

    Note, though, that some email programs and services treat anything below the signature delimiter specially: they deem it especially unimportant. So, as an alternative, you can include your postscriptum below "signing" your message's main text with your name, but above the email's signature.

    (Updated June 2015)

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