Things that bother me: Quotes in Email Signatures

Just one of our many ways to utilize the 1st amendment, adding quotes to the default signature of emails is a habit adapted by many, from boppy tweenagers to corporate secretaries. These range from Einstein to Churchill to the seemingly, and unfortunately, immortal Larry the Cable Guy, and they bother the hell  out of me. I’m not entirely able to explain why, but here I will walk through it as much as my mind is able.

Perhaps it is that they intrude into my otherwise peaceful email-reading, distracting me from my productivity just like Jehovah’s Witnesses who knock during dinner. But it is of course my choice to read it, so perhaps here it is not the quote itself but the common methods of decorating them – borders of stars, italics, fru-fru font – that really pull my eye.

Another related possibility is not the intrusion, but the waste of my time or the disappointment of my mind. By the time I  get to an end of an email I am in full reading mode, scanning every word in line until there are no more. Sure it’s technically my choice to not read it, but it’s my automatic response anyways. It is not at first obvious that the text beyond the name is a quote – it could be a PS, it could contain something vitally important or impressively witty. Maybe I get my hopes up as I start reading beyond the end of the writer’s name, and all those hopes are dashed to the ground when I see a line pulled from a Bond movie.

The obvious argument can be made that these quotes are a form of self-expression, much like bumper stickers or tattoos. Oddly enough I am very much in favor of the later 2, which relates up to my first point – intrusion. Stickers and body ink are passive forms of expression, entities separate from any others which it might be my business to deal with. That sounds confusing even to me, so let me say it like this – if it was my business to inspect car bumpers, the stickers would be intruding into my business. As I am not inspecting auto parts but rather reading emails, the quotes are what is intruding.

My last and most persuasive argument – for the most part, these quotes are completely meaningless. First of all, they are *always* completely out of context, unless you happen to be writing an email about quotes in an email. Sure, some of them are cute and make me think/chuckle/tear up when I read them – when I read them for the *first* time. It is awfully rare that I will receive a single email from a person, and after that preliminary contact I have no desire to repeat my quote-reading experience.

I respect your decision to express yourself, people – I really do. I just wish you did it some other way.

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