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Please Consider the Environment Before Printing This Post

The other day in a business writing course an employee complained about the common directive at the bottom of many emails he receives:

Please consider the environment before printing this email.

He is tired of being told to do something that he already does naturally. He only prints an email if he must have a printed copy, a rare situation for him.

Is it time to stop reminding people not to print unnecessarily? Should we instead direct people to do other things that may not come to them naturally? 

Considering what I hear in business writing classes, I offer these whimsical directives for possible placement at the bottom of your email signature:

Please consider my sanity and respond to both of my questions–not just one.

Please consider what your mother taught you about manners before deleting my request. 

Please consider rereading this email before sending me a question it answers.

Please consider the possibility that my spelling of my name is correct. 

Please consider the 2,152 messages in my inbox before copying me on your "Thanks" emails.

Do you have a "Please consider" directive you would secretly like to add to your email signature?

Please consider sharing it here before the moment passes.

Syntax Training

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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.

13 comments on “Please Consider the Environment Before Printing This Post”

  • Lynn–
    Thank you so much for this post. I am also tired of this email signature directive. The other signature that is growing in popularity is, “Sent from my mobile device. Please excuse any brevity and typos.” To me, this is an excuse for laziness. Brief emails (sent from your mobile device or your desktop computer) can be meaningful. Typos are an example of laziness or a result of not paying attention. I’m not perfect and I do make typos, but I don’t make excuses for them.

    But to answer your question, my directive email signature would read: “Please consider that I am an hourly employee before you infer I must work overtime to complete your project when you know you won’t be spending an equal amount of overtime on this project.”

  • Hi, Lynn,

    Thanks for an amusing post. It reminds me of something I’m thinking about–how you need to make sure little impressions you make are congruent with the big impressions you want to make.

    I doubt that small-time preachifying is congruent with the bigger impression most people want to make with everyone they email with.

    This makes me wonder what might be a more positive tagline. How about something like:

    “My goal was to get to the point in one screenful. Did I succeed?”

    (Fashioned after the “How is my driving?” bumper sticker.)


  • Hi, Anna. Thank you for bringing up the “Sent from my mobile device” tagline, which can serve as an explanation or an excuse. Everyone who uses a smartphone needs to be aware that messages typed on a phone are still written messages that require a level of professionalism.

    I appreciate your “secret” email directive, which tells a meaningful story. Thank you for sharing it!


  • Hi, Jean. Congruence–that’s an interesting way of thinking about email “preachifying” (and thanks for that fine word).

    I am intrigued by your idea of the “How is my writing?” tagline. My focus is on what I want my reader to do, so I would probably not risk taking my reader’s focus off the real action to give me feedback on my writing. Nevertheless, I like where you are taking this idea.

    Thanks for stopping by and leaving a gem.


  • When sending emails to non-administrative staff, mine would have to be “Please consider that while I may ‘only’ be a secretary, I know more about the departmental style and professional writing standards than you do.”

    My duties primarily include reviewing and processing reports written by other individuals, who are primarily surveyors – not writers! In fact, my writing, proofreading, and editting skills (backed up by samples submitted with my resume, naturally) are why I was hired. But I only have an associate’s degree, so all those years I took writing classees and practiced writing just don’t count. Sigh!

  • Phaet, it sounds as though you may need to prove your value to those surveyors. When you save them from a writing embarrassment, they will recognize your expertise.

    Those years will pay off. Stay positive!


  • Two people address each other as Hey Dr. Stats! And he calls her Mrs. Dr. Stats! Neither of their names. They are coworkers with phd’. They sign with j;), etc. I am the wife and am appalled at their behavior. Like 2 teenagers. Advise

  • Please consider that power plants produce electrical bits in overtime, for sending image mail.

  • There is an irony about adding that to a signature block of an email. I recently had a laugh when I printed a document for my manager and an additional page soley read “Please consider the environment before printing this email”.

    Another one not mentioned is: “This email may contain confidential information.” I see this one often and question it. Email is not a confidentially secured communication channel. Why send confidential information using this means of communication?

  • Hi, Robbie. Great example! An environmental note requiring extra paper!

    Like you, I often wonder about the confidential notation at the end of emails.

    Thanks for taking the time to comment.


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