Where Email Etiquette Says Your Signature Should Be

Keep it short, clear, and well-placed

Example template emails written in latin

No hard and fast rules of email etiquette exist regarding the placement of your signature. As with most aspects of communication, though, the overall goal is to get your message across clearly and memorably, but not too obtrusively—so keep the following guidelines in mind.

Email Signature Placement

Email recipients generally expect to see your email signature right below the end of your text. That makes it the best choice for new messages. In replies, however, a condensed version or none at all is a good option; after all, the recipient already knows who you are. This is particularly important in long threads with multiple participants, in which repeated signatures can get unwieldy and annoying.

Email Program Options

The preferences you set in your email program dictate where and how your signature will appear.

  • If you include original messages using indentation and selective quoting, your signature will appear at the bottom of the message.
  • If you quote lazily—i.e., put your message on top of the original message— your signature will typically appear between your message and the original message you quoted, just above the --Original Message-- line.

The difference between lazy quoting and selective quoting is often a function of the email client you use or the standards of your profession. Linux users, for example, often rely on selective quoting, whereas Microsoft Outlook defaults to lazy quoting.

Email Signature Placement Mistakes to Avoid

Guard against these common placement mistakes to avoid confusion:

  • Signature on top, reply in the line below: Readers are conditioned not to look far beyond any signature they encounter. If your email program is set up to put your signature on top of quoted text in replies and forwards, don't write anything into the quoted text. Chances are, recipients will puzzle over your empty reply—but possibly not long enough to find your answers in the quoted portion. Instead, reply above the signature, or move the signature to the very bottom.
  • Signature at the very bottom, reply all on top: Recipients might never see the signature or, if they do, the signature can send them hunting for inline reply text they might have missed. Instead, move the signature to above the quoted part and below your reply.

General Signature Guidelines

Keep these tips in mind when creating and using your signature:

  • Your email signature should be no longer than four or five lines of text.
  • Although not as common as it once was, many email signatures use the standard signature delimiter.
  • Ensure the signature is no wider than 75 characters.
  • Think twice about including images; some email programs treat embedded images as attachments, depending on the program and how recipients set their preferences.
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