Should E-Mail Signatures Include Religious Quotations?

Recently, I’ve been emailing back and forth with a friendly, respectful, professional woman I met at a conference about a month ago. I’ll call her Jane Doe. She uses the following e-mail signature:

 

Jane Doe
Director of Support Services
ABC XYZ University
10 College Street
Anywhere, State USA
P: 555-123-4567  F: 555-987-6543

“In the midst of actions and studies, the mind can be lifted to God, and by means of this directing everything to the divine service, everything is prayer.”  Ignatius of Loyola

The quotation from Ignatius of Loyola rubbed me the wrong way. The really really wrong way. But mostly, her e-mail signature made me wonder. Why did she include the quotation? Surely she realizes that some of the people she communicates with in her role as Direct of Support Services do not share her views about divine service. Why would she risk alienating professional contacts in this way?

In my opinion, when you’re e-mailing at work, your signature is a humble, utilitarian bit of writing intended to make it easy for people to reach you. It should include:

  • Your name
  • Your company’s name
  • Your contact information: phone, fax, mailing address, etc. No need to include your e-mail address as the system will provide it.

Your signature might include:

  • Your title
  • A closing such as “Thank you”
  • A tag line

But back to the words of Ignatius of Loyola. I’m still seeing red, but I’m interested in your opinion. Do you think it’s OK to include religious quotations or scripture in your e-mail signature? Post here or let me know.

— Leslie O’Flahavan

Comments

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

Posted by: David Kay | April 22, 2010 at 03:40:08pm

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?

Posted by: Val Span | April 23, 2010 at 01:04:23pm

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."

Posted by: Leslie O'Flahavan | April 28, 2010 at 06:53:49am

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.

Posted by: WARangel | May 1, 2010 at 01:51:33am

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.

Posted by: Val Span | May 1, 2010 at 03:31:40pm

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.

Posted by: Reici 42 | May 17, 2010 at 06:21:45pm

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.

Posted by: Leslie O'Flahavan | June 1, 2010 at 12:21:01pm

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.

Posted by: Leslie O'Flahavan | June 1, 2010 at 12:23:22pm

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"

Posted by: Leslie O'Flahavan | June 3, 2010 at 06:57:45am

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."

Posted by: Leslie O'Flahavan | June 3, 2010 at 09:41:39am

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'."

Posted by: Leslie O'Flahavan | June 7, 2010 at 03:10:44pm

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

Posted by: Leslie O'Flahavan | June 27, 2010 at 09:18:29am

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.

Posted by: www.google.com/accounts/o8/id?id=AItOawmiVqhSNFSzpwyXxAT61EDS1qNEOzSAbQE | August 1, 2010 at 08:26:05am

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.

Posted by: Mazin Gerz | March 24, 2011 at 03:51:07pm

Why are we focusing on an email signature?? Is it really that serious? Common now. "Live & let live" ;) There are much more important things to focus our attention on.

Posted by: Random reader | December 19, 2012 at 02:25:43pm

I am aware this is an old post but I felt compelled to share. As a strong follower of Christ, and a business woman I can understand both sides of this issue. Many issues in today's society have become a taboo such as racism or religious beliefs, which makes people afraid to speak out on these issues. If people are not uncomfortable they will never change, and if people are afraid to make people uncomfortable the world will remain in darkness to other peoples beliefs and feelings. As a Christian, I am aware that when working for a corporation their may be legal matters as to not include religious beliefs in e-mail signatures, but is it really hurting anyone to share a word of hope and peace. Also, please understand that the bible lets us know that it is our job t share the word of the gospel. Whether you accept it and receive it, it is our responsibility to share God's unfailing love and mercy with other people. Now that may make you uncomfortable, but if you simply accept it for giving attitude it is you may think differently. We are able to know and understand the love that Jesus Christ has given us, and it would be selfish of us to keep that to ourselves. This may sound cultish to you or make you uneasy but the simple truth of the matter is a true follower of christ simply wants the world to understand this sense of peace and hope that we feel. We aren't adding bible verses at the end of our signatures to make people uncomfortable, we're doing it to do the complete opposite. To share love and compassion. Personally, I do have a bible verse at the bottom of my e-mail but I feel that if a person decides not to do business with me simply because of my religious beliefs, then what type of person are they anyway if not open and understanding that each person has their own walk. If I can be accepting of the fact that you may not believe in God, who are you to not accept that I do. Our society is placing entirely too much focus on little things like religious beliefs and making people feel uncomfortable-when at the end of the day what really matters is the love we show each other and the good we do for others. Proverbs 16:3: Commit they works unto The Lord and your plans will be established.

Posted by: Ashley Ayers | November 24, 2013 at 09:08:48pm

It is WORK not Social Media and not Personal Email. I used to not care but after all the scripture I have to see all day long now at work and people asking me if I am a "Faithful Woman"? Totally none of their business! I am over it. I have a Boss that recently became reborn and everyone suddenly started putting scripture on their emails. A new form of butt kissing as far as I am concerned. We all received a "New" Christian book for Christmas. I found it insulting and assuming. ACK is all I can stay. Keep it to yourself !!! No way would my work be open to Non Christian Quotes on our email. It is actually a form of workplace bullying.

Posted by: Patricia | July 4, 2014 at 04:52:20pm

I don't see anything wrong with a positive or inspirational quote, even including Scripture. I think our society has become so obsessed with being PC that we no longer have the gumption to express who we are, even with something as simple as an email signature. I consider myself to be very professional even with my Biblical quote. I contain all the necessary contact info and my quote is short and sweet: “Whatever you do, do everything for the glory of God.” ~ 1 Corinthians 10:31 I don't expect anyone to share my beliefs, but it does set the record straight on what's important to me and my values. If people don't like it, I understand and respect that and they are more than welcome to contact somebody else with a neutral email signature.

Posted by: Mariel Garcia | June 11, 2015 at 09:10:27pm

The Bible is classic literature. Why would it be offensive but not other ancient literature? What law governs this? No one cited a law. If signature lines in general are offensive why have that option in the email?

Posted by: Arthur | August 1, 2017 at 03:44:00pm

your to sensitive, get a life and chill.

Posted by: Charlie Peppiatt | March 20, 2019 at 09:53:57am

Hello, Charlie - Thanks for sharing your opinion. I don't think I'm too sensitive, but I can understand why you would say that. Out of curiosity, do you include a quotation in your email signature? If so, would you be willing to share it?

Posted by: Leslie O'Flahavan | March 20, 2019 at 04:52:20pm

We are a fair size corrections facility. My DON sends out a Bible Verse daily. Our facility is very diversified. We are many colors, races and religions. His verses are Christian. I object. I am a firm believer in God but not a Christian. I think this is exclusive. What about the rest of us. I don't think this is a good idea in the workplace.

Posted by: Barbara Valery RN, MSN | May 14, 2019 at 09:16:41am

Barbara, I agree with you completely. I think it is highly exclusive for a leader to send out Bible verses daily (or on any other schedule). This is NOT a good idea in the workplace. Your DON is conveying that he believes that Christian verses are meaningful to all employees, which is just a willful lack of awareness of how such verses will be received. He should stop doing this, in my opinion.

Posted by: Leslie O'Flahavan | May 14, 2019 at 09:34:03am

A senior civilian staff member in a military organization closes EVERY piece of correspondence, whether it's an email blast or to individual recipients, with this quote: “If you have not chosen the kingdom of God first, it will in the end make no difference what you have chosen instead.” ~William Law" William Law was a prominent and controversial member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints and from the pulpit apostatized against Joseph Smith until he was excommunicated. I find it unprofessional and highly offensive to be subjected to this kind of proselytizing in daily official correspondence from a senior member who I believe abuses his authority by including it in every note that emanates from his office.

Posted by: Name Withheld | July 22, 2019 at 09:25:13pm

Thanks for sharing this comment about the senior civilian staff member's email closing. I agree with you completely! I think it's unprofessional and inappropriate to be subjected to proselytizing by any person at work. Because this is coming from a senior person, I am sure it induces a feeling of helplessness, too. I'm sorry this is happening to you at work.

Posted by: Leslie O'Flahavan | August 4, 2019 at 02:40:45pm

So funny that a religious quote would get someone to "see red".

Posted by: SGD | August 5, 2019 at 04:00:00pm

Hi, SGD - Thanks for your comment. I'm not sure I understand whether you mean it's funny that a religious quote (a relatively small thing) would make someone angry enough to see red or whether you mean that religious quotes are so welcome that they shouldn't cause anger. Please forgive me if I'm misreading your comment and feel free to elaborate!

Posted by: Leslie O'Flahavan | January 2, 2020 at 11:50:56am

I am currently a police officer for a very small agency. My personal religious affiliation. I have this as my signature. Give Justice to the weak and the fatherless; maintain the right of the afflicted and the destitute.Rescue the weak and the needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked I deal with hate every day from the people I deal with to the people who hate me just because I am a police officer. The people I email most of the time are fellow police officers or people who deal with law enforcement. To me it is two fold yes when I send an email it does remind me to keep my head up and do the job the way it is suppose to be done. To who I send it to dealing with the dark world we live and work in hopefully it does the same for them. Now the issue with the world is we have to be PC but yet express ourselves at the same time. If we are anything other than normal it is okay to express yourself but if your normal its not. Do you see anything wrong with this quote other then it is in a signature? How about if I said Hitler, Obama, or Ali said it? How about now it really is Psalm 82:3-4 The bible is a book just like any other book. In the hands of someone who is religious it is very important. To me it is. In the hands of someone else it is not. Just like any other book. Yes I see can see how its unprofessional to some but something this small is not something worth worrying about. Also I am being told by a anti religion group to remove it. not because it is a signature but because it is religious. However if it was from any other others named above this would not be a thing. So when is my rights as a free person being over ran because I quote scripture not so other person.

Posted by: David | February 25, 2020 at 12:10:28pm

Hello, David - I appreciate the time you've taken to share your opinion, and I'm sorry to learn you deal with hate from people every day. That must be very difficult to bear. I disagree with several of the points you've made about "normal" people, the Bible being a book like any other, and the pressure to be "PC," etc. In my opinion, the email signature of a public servant (such as a police officer) should not carry any religious content whatsoever.

Posted by: Leslie O'Flahavan | February 25, 2020 at 09:44:29pm

Add your comment