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:
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.