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What’s Up With Email Slogans and Sayings?

Yesterday in a writing seminar I asked the group of 10 participants how many of them liked philosophical sayings or quotations at the end of an email. Here is the result:

  • Percentage who like sayings and quotations in email: 0%

It was a friendly group at a progressive company, and I could tell they were not completely comfortable admitting they didn’t like such quotations and sayings. But one person was able to explain her view in words something like these:

I don’t like them because I get caught up in reading them. I read the quotation, think about the person and why they included that quote, and compare it to what I know about them. All this is going on when I’m trying to get my job done. I would prefer that people leave them off.

The rest of the group agreed, and so do I. I have been distracted plenty of times by quotations at the end of email. Here are a few that have appeared in email I have received:   

Success is not a matter of mastering subtle, sophisticated theory, but rather of embracing common sense with uncommon levels of discipline and persistence.
Patrick Lencioni, from The Five Dysfunctions of a Team

The world is round and the place which may seem like the end may also be only the beginning.
George Baker (1877-1965)

Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power.
Abraham Lincoln

Only passions, great passions, can elevate a soul to great things.
Diderot, 1746

It is good to have an end to journey toward; but it is the journey that matters, in the end.
Ursula K. LeGuin

We may prop quotations on our desk or bulletin board for inspiration throughout the day. And we may use quotations in a presentation or article to crystallize our message for the audience.   

But what is the purpose of pasting a quotation in at the end of an email, particularly when that quotation has no connection with the message? Sure, the words may inspire the reader, but is the reader actually looking for inspiration at the end of the dozens or hundreds of messages that flood the inbox each day?

  • Percentage of people who are likely to answer the previous question yes: <5%

I generally agree with the quotations I listed above, but I don’t need them at the end of an email. 

What is your view of philosophical or religious quotations beneath the sender’s signature? Do you find them inspiring or distracting? A gemlike gift or a theft of your time? If you include them, why?

Please share your opinion.


P.S. For more tips on effective email, consider this tool.

Posted by Lynn Gaertner Johnson
By Lynn Gaertner-Johnston

Lynn Gaertner-Johnston has helped thousands of employees and managers improve their business writing skills and confidence through her company, Syntax Training. In her corporate training career of more than 20 years, she has worked with executives, engineers, scientists, sales staff, and many other professionals, helping them get their messages across with clarity and tact.

A gifted teacher, Lynn has led writing classes at more than 100 companies and organizations such as MasterCard, Microsoft, Boeing, Nintendo, REI, AARP, Ledcor, and Kaiser Permanente. Near her home in Seattle, Washington, she has taught managerial communications in the MBA programs of the University of Washington and UW Bothell. She has created a communications course, Business Writing That Builds Relationships, and provides the curriculum at no cost to college instructors.

A recognized expert in business writing etiquette, Lynn has been quoted in "The Wall Street Journal," "The Atlantic," "Vanity Fair," and other media.

Lynn sharpened her business writing skills at the University of Notre Dame, where she earned a master's degree in communication, and at Bradley University, with a bachelor's degree in English. She grew up in suburban Chicago, Illinois.

22 comments on “What’s Up With Email Slogans and Sayings?”

  • I’m against quotations in email signatures. They very seldom add any value, particularly during a very business-like email exchange. And sometimes people make them entirely too long. Their value is lost on me.

  • I guess I come from a completely different school of thought. If I don’t have time, I don’t look at the quotes in an email signature. If I am busy I also will not look at the links to someone’s blog or Facebook page. For me it is a matter of priorities and limited time.

    If I do have the time, I like to see how people are trying to construct their identity in some small way. I will read the quote, if I choose, and I love it if they give me a little golden nugget to think about. I will follow the link to Facebook and see how this person is actively taking part in communities and also constructing an identity. Sometimes I am amazed at how well I can get to know people simply by following the links in an email signature.

    So go ahead and leave the quotes in (and the links to Facebook or other sites)…thereby leaving the choice in our hands. If I have the time, I may come to like you a little bit more because I spent 3 or 4 minutes following your leads and enjoying the journey.

  • Michael, thanks for telling the other side of the story. I am wondering how much email you receive and how much pressure you feel in your work day. I wonder whether those factors affect how you feel about quotations and other personal information. In any case, thanks for joining the discussion.


  • Howdy, Lynn! Found you mentioned at Joanna Young’s Confident Writing.

    Personally, I don’t want to put a quote at the end of MY emails because then one of two things might happen: a) the same quote stays there forever, and pretty soon people think I never change (I do – all the time), or b) I vary it often, and then it becomes one more thing to keep track of!

    So no, I don’t put them in my own emails. I also don’t generally bother to read them in others’ emails either, because well, if I want to learn something about you, I’d rather read something YOU wrote! Much more revealing.


  • Robert, thanks for weighing in. It gave me a nudge to look at your site. I enjoyed the October 3 post on the importance of clarity, especially the “For Restrooms, Use Stairwell.” Ha!

    Glad to meet you.


  • Hi Lynn, I also found you through Joanna Young’s blog. You put your finger on the problem with assembly line quotations – they have no context, so they leave the reader wondering. Why is this quote here? What is its significance? Unless I have a lot of time on my hands, I won’t try to figure it out. On the other hand, a well placed quotation in context is extremely powerful.

  • Brad, I like “assembly line” as a descrption. Yet those who share quotations in their email no doubt have a very different intent.

    Thanks for taking the time to comment. I will thank Joanna for inspiring you to visit.


  • Hi Lynn

    Consider it done!

    I highlighted the piece because it was so practical – and yet also contained the most perplexing set of quotations.

    I can feel my brain still trying to fathom them out – and that’s the last thing you need when you’re busily trying to work through a ton of mail.

    Best wishes


  • Joanna, many thanks for your comment and for spreading the word. I am still hoping to hear from someone who uses email quotations.

    My best,


  • Hi Lynn,

    My email varies from week to week. A typical week for me has 100+ email per day on average. During weeks when I am very busy with a client program I get 200+ per day. Slow weeks, like the current one, I get maybe 30-40 emails per day.

    While I find the links to Facebook, LinkedIn, or a blog most useful for helping me learn about a person, taking a short moment to reflect on the quote is enjoyable as well. It gives me something to talk about when I shake their hand.

    At the end of the day, working with people as an educator and consultant requires that I know the people I am trying to support. Taking 3-4 minutes to look at a blog or Facebook page–or pay attention to a quote–is a fast, easy, and efficient way to familiarize myself with my client and make a more personal connection. This is no different than a Harvard case teacher who memorizes the personal profile of each learner (and they do!). It lubricates the relationship and builds credibility.

    Keep up the great work!

  • Hi Lynn-As someone who can barely keep on top of about a hundred emails a day I find all those little sayings at the end of e-mails annoying, not just distracting. I always feel like there’s something I’m supposed to “get” about the sender or the message or something so I get distracted (like an earlier poster)and my time is already busy with other things. One woman who emails me regularly obviously takes great joy in her quotes and changes them weekly but they almost never match the tone of her notes so that’s even more distracting. I have an art business and many artists and folks in related businesses are really into those little quotes. I’m with most of your posters. Save them for your friends!

  • Michael, thanks so much for elaborating on your comment. I love becoming more aware of the other side of the argument.

    Mary, I enjoyed reading about the woman whose quotations don’t match her message. It reminds me of the man I know who includes the autotext “Thx and have a nice day” on every email.

    Thanks to everyone for commenting!


  • I know this is an old blog, but I still wanted to respond. Although I understand what you say about it making you think about the person after you have read the email, I think you are not looking at this as a good thing when it can be. The freedom of expression of ourselves is an important aspect to consider in all day to day functions. We are human first. I myself, receive hundreds of emails a day, I work sometimes 100 hours a week no joke, but I still have time for me, and others, which in itself is an outlet. If you are too focused on the job at hand, the hand loses focus, thus mistakes and is followed by stress and illness that slows us down. So adequate time management cannot be achieved in high stress situations. The reduction of stress is a crucial element to our day to day survival in business. I think that is all these quote really are, is a persons need to express themselves, maybe something you might need to start doing more of. Oh and I just want to point out your P.S. One might have the same argument that we read thousands of blogs and articles a day, to we really need to see one more offering us information we didn’t ask for?

  • I wish I had read this earlier. I’ve sent business emails (in my part-time job) with a quotation at the end of my emails! After reading this article, I immediately went to the “Options” menu in Yahoo Mail and removed the quotation. Thank you so much for this article.

  • Does anyone have a good suggestion for a quote I can use on my email signature to solicit referals? I am an insurance agent, and I’d like to stress how important referrals are to my business without being cheesy or annoying..?

  • Dear Madam:

    Many thanks for the great efforts. I was about to add a slogan; but changed my mind having read the above. I work as a Director of a hotel school, same time do multiple jobs for the owning company. i just end my mails with name + mobile #.

    God bless you.


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