E-mails Aren't Really Letters

Most e-mail conversations start something like this:

Hello, Person
Lorem ipsum for several paragraphs, with a couple of questions thrown in.
Kind regards,
Huge signature including profile picture, contact information (as if we didn't already know that), position at company or maybe a quote one likes.

Fine. Opening a conversation in a friendly matter similar to an actual letter is okay. It's polite, I guess, though a little verbose in some attempt to show that thought and time has gone into it. Or maybe just to shift the content to signature ratio a bit.

You answer in similar fashion. Probably top posting, which means that you just hit "reply" and start typing without lending a thought to the fact that all previous messages in the conversation will be cited in your response.

Then that person replies. Again with the full "Hello, Person" introduction and gigantic signature. Before you know it you have a full conversation where each new message contains more than ten full "Hello, Person"s complete with filler text and automatically appended big signatures that nobody reads (see footnote).

Seriously. It's not mediaeval correspondence. It's almost instantaneously delivered messages. Do you do the same thing with each line you deliver in a conversation? "Hello, Person... And to conclude I am Sender, here's a picture of me and let me read you my business card which I'll also gladly show you. And now let me repeat everything we have previously said."

No. We don't do that. It's a really bad habit, actually. One that almost all email software has helped us perpetuate by just hiding all previous messages behind a tiny "show quoted text" button and a setting for writing your signature once and automatically add it to all outgoing messages.

Next time you send a reply after everyone has already been introduced, start by deleting all previous written text except that which you should quote to add context to your replies. And then skip the introductions and the signature.

Footnote: A previous employer gave us directives that all outgoing email must contain a blob of text with our name, position, contact information, and all that jazz. I added it. And then topped off with the line "No pandas, llamas, or platypus were harmed in the process of authoring this email."

In those three years where I used this signature for internal and external communication only one person ever noticed. One.

-- CC0 Björn Wärmedal