Proper way of email quoting

  • Written by: Marko Samastur
  • Published on:
  • Category: Catchall

I was reading Roger Johansson’s blog and came to a post about message quoting. It reminded me of something I wrote last time I observed a flamewar between top-posting and inline-replies proponents. This is a rough translation from Slovene:

> Because it messes up the flow of reading.
> > Why is replying about quotations annoying?

Could you please stop with that? I don’t mean just the author of this message, but the general attitude of forcing people to use one, true way of quoting.

Both approaches, a reply under a short quotation or a whole message about the previous one, have their place and choice should be based on current need. So it’s good to be aware of their consequences on resulting dialog.

Short quotations followed by replies are meaningful when lost context from clipped text doesn’t hurt understanding too much. This means they are useful mainly for short, fact-oriented answers to concrete questions.

They are more or less inappropriate for longer, more involved dialog because they transfer focus from whole text to particular sentences. Lost context just raises probability of misunderstanding.

Endless threads, quarreling about insignificant issues, off-topic threads etc. are a normal and expected byproduct of such discussion. Even a cursory glance over archives proves this.

It’s much better for a dialog, if reply is placed above the message, but ONLY when it’s self-contained and meaningful even without the original message. Attached original is therefore at most a friendly reminder for forgetful minds.

Picking right form is a matter of personal judgment and hence a source of mistakes. But this certainly can’t be a reason to howl down somebody.

I still believe this is true. I find myself using inline replies more often than not, but I do use top-posting when occasions calls for it and I don’t think I’m a lesser being for it.