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April 22, 2010


David Kay

Absolutely not appropriate. Well, with one exception: if the organization for which she works, and the interactions that she is likely to have, are explicitly religious in nature. By similar logic, I wouldn't be surprised to get "don't forget to register and vote Republican" from a constituent-facing employee of the RNC. But if she worked for (say) the University of San Diego, which is a Catholic institution but not one with a mission that is explicitly sacred, I'd say it's out of bounds.

Signatures should be "just the facts." And while we're at it, lose the 30 line disclaimer from Legal telling me I what I can and can't do with your email, please? You sent it to me -- don't start giving me orders.

And please keep the marketing tag line du jour out of it, too. And your non-relegious inspirational or humorous thought of the day. Really, it's work email, not Facebook.

And I don't need a 200 x 300 version of your logo.

One exception: a nice, one-line link to the customer support portal is perfectly appropriate on a response from a customer support professional.


ps - still, if you're really seeing red, perhaps that's more about you than about the .sig? dbk

Val S.

Boy, I have to agree with you. The quote is not only religious, it is long and presumptuous - do you really need to add inspirational messages to business emails? In a similar vein, a condolence card was recently sent around our office, and one colleague wrote that he hoped Jesus would help this person through her grief. Why does he assume she has the same beliefs he does?

Leslie O'Flahavan

Posting on behalf of Judy Woods of Word-Works.com (and with her permission): "I most emphatically do not think religious quotes or scripture have any place in business correspondence. It is unprofessional and intrusive."


Because of how "babyish" our society has become, I understand why it is inappropriate and if I was the employer of the signator, I will ask they remove it .

And if I was the employer of the complainer, I would fire her for being such a baby and causing a conflict where there does not need to be one: Whaaaaa. Whaaaaa. the pain. the suffering. the injustice and humiliation - "I'm so offended" - like it's a federal case or drew blood or something. Nor did the statement actually insult anyone.

If someone posted a positive statement and constructive suggestion to be wiccan, buddhist, socialist, etc. - would I be offended.

Why? Why would I be offended? I like to hear the genuises explain why I'm I personally suppose to feel offended. I didn't say disagree. Yeah, I disagree. But how is it that I supposedly have been harmed that I should take offense.

That out of all the things I should have my mind on, I should interrupt those to take offense over this and spend time seeking to "correct" and "admonish" the person?

I fire the complainer for acting like a baby and frankly all of you for promoting a conflict instead of ... get this ... encouraging complainer to treat the signator like a human being and reach out and start a "dialog."

That's right a "dialog" not a self-righteous "diatribe" or "lecture" about how "offensive" and inappropriate the signature, but a dialog.

How does that begin? Writing the person and asking her why she uses that quote and pointing out that people may find it offensive or inappropriate (explaining how it made you felt -- this suppose harm and disrespect and everything that you choose to take it as) and ask her to explain.

And you know what ... you probably still won't agree, but you may actually find yourself talking to and overall liking another human being despite your differences and vice versa. It may even start a dialog where both of you gain in understanding.

But sure, instead respond back hitting with your own "holy" book about how wrong she is and needs to get right.

So again, I would tell signator not to do it. And I would fire you and commentarors here for acting like babies and for handling it the wrong way.

Val S.

I believe we were discussing this in the context of professionalism, which would mean not presuming that your religious or political views need to be shared in every email you send.

Reici 42

I do not believe emails are considered formal business letters and adding a quotation to an email signature is a popular practice in today’s world. It gives the writer a means of self expression. Your aversion to the use of a “religious” quote caused me to speculate as to the possible multifarious origins of your objection. Were you offended by; the addition of a quote, the religious nature of the quote or the specific statement made by the quote? Personally, I found it to be un-inspirational and thought that it was possibly used more to impress than to reach out and touch someone. Having read only a little about Ignatius of Loyola, my impression is that he valued simplicity and might have used a different quote to share his religious views. Additionally, her choice of quotes biased my opinion of her unfavorably. So, from a professional perspective, your point is well taken. However, had the quote been one from Henry David Thoreau, Voltaire or perhaps Mahatma Gandhi, I doubt you would have objected. If the quote had been a simple religious expression intended to spread a little hope, you may not have felt the same. Too many people fight to separate church from everything they can. As a Christian, I object. Freedom of speech and/or expression is not for everyone except Christians. One does not need to practice Hinduism to recognize and acknowledge the wisdom of Gandhi’s words. The bible and the words and works of Christ and many of his followers, are also great sources for inspiration. So, unless your belief is that all quotations should be removed from email signatures, perhaps some time spent examining the true source of the irritation would be well spent.

Leslie O'Flahavan

Thanks for the lively discussion, everyone. I appreciate reading your opinions. Reici 42 wrote "I do not believe emails are considered formal business letters..." but I have to disagree. In most businesses, e-mails are considered as meaningful, professional, and binding as business letters. Reici 42 also asked a great follow-up question: "Were you offended by; the addition of a quote, the religious nature of the quote or the specific statement made by the quote?" Here's my answer. At first, I reacted against the religious nature of the quotation in the e-mail signature. Having thought about this topic a bit more, I'm coming out against inspirational quotations of any type in e-mail signatures. I just don't think they're the right way to close an e-mail at work.

Leslie O'Flahavan

Posting on behalf of Paula C. (and with her permission):
Dear Leslie,
In my opinion, a quote is a quote and as long as it is meant in the spirit of being uplifting and positive, and leaving the reader in a better place, it’s okay with me. I am always free to agree to disagree with the content, and sometimes find that if and when one ‘hits me the wrong way’, it has usually hit upon some resistance in my system that perhaps could use a deeper look before I condemn the content outright.

Having said that, however, it is true that when you do include something like that, you absolutely will risk offending someone. Before including it, you must be ready to accept the consequences for appearing offensive with your intended audience.

Thank you,

Paula C.

Leslie O'Flahavan

Posted with their permission, here are two comments from Writing Matters readers:

"Including a religious quotation in a professional signature line is not appropriate. I would say the same about political statements and pleas to support someone's child in a charity fundraiser. The exceptions would be quotations that support the primary message of the e-mail and/or organization's mission. For example, a religious quotation from a religious professional could be an effective, acceptable use.
My e-mail address is part of my signature because some e-mail software converts addresses to names in forwards and replies."
"I agree with you on the religious quotes – they should not be included in business emails. We have many people who do that in our company and it always bothers me. Thanks for standing up on this issue! -- Carol"

Leslie O'Flahavan

Posted--with permission--on behalf of Elizabeth Manning Murphy (Canberra, Australia: "I have six 'signatures' at the moment, and I choose carefully which one I'll put at the end of any email -- or none at all... All contain my name and phone numbers. One does contain my email address as a hyperlink, to make it easy for a few people I know to just click on it and reply. One does set out what my business is in a few words. None includes any inspirational, motivational or religious lines, and I too deplore the six-line essay on what I should do with an email that I've received in error. Email should be businesslike when it's about business. I don't like tacked-on courtesy or gratuitous sermons either, but I do have a couple of really good friends who put religious or poetic quotes at the end of their emails, and I just accept them without getting stirred up about them. I also ignore the gratuitous advice to think about printing stuff out when we're trying to save trees, much as I applaud the sentiment. No point in 'seeing red' -- people all see email differently, and if some of them want to put advertising at the bottom of theirs, so be it. I don't have to do business with them. Thank you for a great guide to writing online."

Leslie O'Flahavan

Posting on behalf of another Writing Matters reader (who didn't want her name used):

"You touched on a subject that has been my beef also. It rubs me the wrong way whenever I see any quote attached to a professional signature in an e-mail, religious or not. Even if I have the same belief as the sender, I felt it was self-serving to project one's own belief onto others. It also clutters up the space and makes for some confusion when there is back and forth conversation between the parties. So, my vote is a big 'NO'."

Leslie O'Flahavan

I am posting this follow-up on behalf of a Writing Matters reader who didn't want to share her name or the company she works for. She e-mailed me to let me know that her company had recently developed guidelines against adding a religious or political quotes in email. The guidelines state:

"Among the elements not allowed in email signatures:
-- Images
-- The corporate logo, corporate images, corporate signatures or slogans, or other branding elements
-- Tag lines, quotes, mission statements or anything with political or religious content
-- Website links, or notices about upcoming vacation days
-- Non-work-related titles"

Our reader included some comments:
"Here are some emails quotes that I’ve received personally, shown below in their original form. While these do not offend me, they do not seem professional. However, there is one that I remember that was particularly blatant. I cannot locate it because I received it about two years ago. An employee indicated they were on vacation by a graphic of a palm tree and a Corona beer."

-- "Cancer cannot cripple love, shatter hope, corrode faith, destroy peace, suppress memories, silence courage,invade your soul, steal eternal life, kill a friendship or conquer your spirit"
-- "The root of all conflict is unmet expectation." Edie Varley


Speaking from a British perspective, this would go down even less well with Europeans. Personally, it always makes me cringe when people attach quotes to their emails, even when the lines are not religious.

Mazin Gerz

I added this Bible quote on my outgoing corporate e-mails: "...whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just... think on these things." Phil. 4:8, simply because things were getting out of line. Even the boss was sending e-mails with 4-letter words in it. What kind of professionalism is that? Now the head of department is asking me to take it down, and in turn, has asked everyone, including my boss, to behave more responsibly in all conduct, e-mail or what not. I think it has had a great effect. So, I'm keeping it on.

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