Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Tricking Gmail out of trimming your signature

I highly disapprove of Gmail's current procedure of making your signature disappear under "trimmed content" when you send a message. I want my signature to appear, or I wouldn't have written it there in the first place. I should not be forced into sending a message that looks like this.

I looked online for advice, and the best thing Google has to offer to fix this is the "Signature Tweaks" lab, which "Places your signature before the quoted text in a reply, and removes the "--" line that appears before signatures."

However, unfortunately, this doesn't work for me, because it only applies to a programmed signature, the kind that that you see at the end of professional emails, perhaps with a company slogan, phone number, or web site address. I have my signature block turned off and enter my signature manually, so the signature tweaks lab doesn't apply to me.

I'm talking about Gmail hiding my plain old name. Whether I type it as my name, an initial, or a nickname, it somehow knows. "HA!" it says, "I'm going to gobble up that word, and turn it gray, and hide it under a gray ellipsis so that hardly anyone will ever see it or know it was ever there."

This is not the only trimming that Gmail does. When I recently moved, I sent my family a quick email containing my new mailing address. This was useful, never-before-seen content to them, so it would have made sense for Gmail to deliver the email properly and display the information I sent. Not so fast. This is what happened to the email:

Now granted, you can mouse over the little gray box and click on it to "Show trimmed content."

When you do, the censored material comes up.

I do not like that. I do not appreciate Gmail forcing me to do it this way. I am not happy that they have offered no solution to the problem. People on Google message boards have been complaining about this problem for more than two years, and no fix has been offered. The default procedure should be to show your signature, and from there people should be able to choose whether or not to turn it off.

Why I don't like my signature to be trimmed

1) The proper form of a letter includes a salutation at the beginning and a closing signature at the end. In this age of texting, chats, and IM correspondence, we have dismissed all courtesy forms and we simply say what we want to say to each other without any preliminaries. Excuse me, but the letters I send out by email are NOT text messages. They are not facebook posts. They are personal correspondence, and they still benefit from the grace and dignity of a traditional salutation and signature.

2) Hiding the signature is a subtle way of hinting that it's useless to put it there in the first place, since no one is ever going to see it anyway. Therefore it is not merely a passive thing--it's an active one, chipping away at our habits, ever-so-gently training the entire Gmail population to drop this custom, and contributing to the massive dumbing-down of our already-illiterate society.

3) I find it rude to receive an unsigned letter, and it is appalling to discover too late that I committed the error myself through no fault of my own. The censor's shears neatly snipped that one word, "Rebekah," off the bottom, put it into a little gray box, and left the message with an absurd-looking "Sincerely," dangling in solitude at the end of the letter.

What you can do about it

It appears that Gmail is not about to fix this problem anytime soon. Petitions and complaints have been appearing on Google message boards for at least two years, and it hasn't done any good.

Here is a collection of ideas that you can use to preserve your signature from the sneaky gray shears.

Important note: Repetition is death. If you use any of these more than a few times in a row, Google will learn and begin to trim it, too. So keep it varied, and you'll be safe. The key to preserving your signature is for the part AFTER your signature to look to Google's robots like something important and unique (because to them, your name is neither).

Best Idea by Anonymous Commenter on June 11, 2014:

Other ideas:
  • Write a line of unique text after your signature. 
  • Save a P.S. for the end. (Note: If you actually prefix your P.S. with the letters P.S., gmail will still turn your name gray but not hide it completely. If you do not use the letters P.S., gmail does not recognize your name to turn it gray.)
  • List and describe your attachments. 
  • Say something funny. 
  • Put in an inspirational quote 
  • Decorate the line after your name with special characters. Here are a few ideas:
    ~ • ~ • ~ • ~
    ~ • ~ ♥ ~ • ~
    ♦ • ♦ • ♦
    ■ ♦ ■ ♦ ■
  • Make up your own patterns with the ALT key and the numbers on the numeric keypad.
    Alt + 1 = ☺
    Alt + 2 = ☻
    Alt + 3 = ♥
    Alt + 4 = ♦
    Alt + 5 = ♣
    Alt + 6 = ♠
    Alt + 7 = •
    Alt + 8 = ◘
    Alt + 9 = ○
    Alt + 10 = ◙
    Alt + 13 = ♪
    Alt + 14 = ♫
    Alt + 15 = ☼
    Alt + 176 = ░
    Alt + 177 = ▒
    Alt + 178 = ▓
    Alt + 254 = ■
  • A discreet way to do it is to just hit enter a couple of times and add one period at the very bottom of the message. 
  • Another discreet way to do it is to add some text at the bottom and color it white. (It will be visible to the recipient if he makes a selection over that portion of the message, though, so say something decent.)
  • User dougwoodrow on this page offered the good idea of inserting the current time stamp at the end of every email. "[15:02:21 29/01/2013] End of message."

Now for the next step...

Tricking Gmail out of trimming all your FRIENDS' signatures

So far my only idea for this is that all my friends follow one or more of the suggestions above when they write their emails. Any other suggestions?


  1. I don't know if this works, but I removed the three little dashes (---) so at least there is not the "sign" to trim, your ideas are good, but extra work. (sigh)

    I really feel I need to get a different email address and get out of the google system. I have been searching and think I need to get my own website and account. Expense yet, but freedom is worth a price. Yes they are trying to dumb us down, but also to get us to allow them to control us in every little way... WE know what's best you you, you must submit to us.

    1. I've heard others mention that idea, too, but I don't know where to find the three dashes. (Help, anyone?)

      I agree that my ideas are extra work, and it is an inconvenience Google should not force us to put up with. I am offended, too, by the controlling attitude you mentioned ("WE know what's best for you; you must submit to us"), which is why I am willing to do the extra work to have it my way (i.e. my signature showing).

  2. "The proper form of a letter includes a salutation at the beginning and a closing signature at the end."
    My employer has just switched to gmail. I look at best unprofessional, at worst abrupt and rude with my truncated emails. Sometimes fixes work, sometimes not. I will try yours. Thanks for posting.

  3. This made me laugh a lot instead of being indignant- thanks. I've just set up a new mail account from my own domain and tested it sending an email to my gmail account. The gray line of doom shears off my signature on receipt. Wow. Its very annoying. The above commenter is right too - at best it looks unprof- at worst rude.

    1. Happy to hear it made you laugh. :-) That's always a good thing. I like how you put it: "the gray line of doom." Nice. Good luck on figuring out a workaround.

  4. This is extremely poor form on the part of Google. I don't know what's happened. With the onset of Google+ (automatically forcing me to merge my youtube name with Gmail) and the hiding of my signature -- I would expect this kind of thing from Facebook or Microsoft. Google has lost a lot of points in my book. Plus it's impossible to actually talk to someone, or email someone, at Google to get an answer. Two thumbs down. They revolutionized the search engine, and then what happened? It's almost like they're just implementing things because they feel like doing something is better than doing nothing. This philosophy has not served them well, and it's alarming that they're not listening to their users. Wake up Google!

    1. YES! I totally agree! I was upset with the merger of my youtube name and gmail too.

      Anyone have any ideas of how we can get any leverage to get them to listen? How many unhappy people will it take? What kind of a campaign are they waiting for?

  5. Just so everyone knows, I was toying with the settings and noticed an unchecked box underneath the Signature box. It says "Insert this signature before quoted text in replies and remove the "--" line that precedes it."

    Check that box and I think it fixes the problem. I've never noticed it before but I think it works (after my one test back and forth between a different email account).

    1. Your suggestion (checking "Insert this signature before quoted text in replies and remove the "--" line that precedes it.") does not work for me. Sending an email with signature from MacMail to my gmail account results in "gray line of doom" :(

  6. I was just looking around for solutions, and I found one that works for me so far! (Hopefully, it's a permanent fix, because it would suck so much otherwise.) If you enable the "canned response" lab, then go to compose a new message, write your signature, click on the arrow next to the trash button, save the signature as a canned response, then click on that canned response each time you need your signature, it stays above the trimmed content.

  7. Another solution, involving no labs (which are always subject to change) is to add a special character at the bottom of your signature within the settings.

    I write my signature, press enter a couple of times, then click the QUOTE button on the provided style bar. This adds a little vertical bar after the signature which i presume disrupts the auto detection of the signature and prevents the trimming. I've tried this on a couple of different accounts successfully and my friends report the solution also works for them.


    1. Best solution ever! Very easy (just one click), very subtle (invisible), and it WORKS! Thanks for sharing!

    2. Doesnt work unfortunately. Sig still gets trimmed behind the tree dots when replying.

      Other ideas?

  8. I tried by adding ________________________ to the bottom of all my signature and then changing the text color to white! That seemed to work well when composing but for some reason not on replies so that's my next goal....

  9. Thank you! Finally, a comprehensive solution.

  10. Simply drop this bar into your autosig, a few rows below the last line. Save your settings and sent e-mails will now always send without truncating your auto-sig. This bar does appear on replies, so I don't have a fix here.

  11. I run a wild seed exchange and members were placing orders with their mailing address at the end. Guess what got truncated! My son is a code writer who makes a very good living from fixing stupid coding errors like Google employs in this case. Thank god I don't get a lot of email orders and now I know how to see the information. F- to Google!

  12. Guys, this is very simple to fix. Just place a white 1x1 pixel JPEG after signature on Outllook / OS Mail / Gmail Etc


  13. Thank you Rebekah for posting this! And thank you to the Anonymous Commenter on June 11, 2014, as clicking Enter twice then pressing "Quote" works! God bless you.

    Paul and Adam Janz


Thank you for commenting! I love comments! You have just made my day! :-)