Is top posting still rude?

As soon as I started emailing my husband, then friend. I immediately noticed his habit of quoting snippets of my emails and replying directly to those comments or questions.

I might have questioned it in my mind, but I don’t think I considered it something everyone should do because I didn’t know a single other person who did it.

Top posting (which I hadn’t heard of until a week ago!) is the practice of replying to emails and messages above the quoted text. All the email clients and services that I’ve dealt with encourage this by putting your cursor above a quoted email. Sometimes it can be helpful – it’s certainly good when you’ve been forwarded a conversation that you weren’t originally party to. However, most of the time if you need to see the previous text it’s annoying to scroll down to find it. If you don’t need it, why should it be there at all?

I’ve started to quote emails and delete the whole quoted message from the bottom. I kind of like it because it takes more effort. Yes, I know, we usually want to minimise effort. However, I think it’s useful to put in effort to reap rewards such as: easier reading; fewer clarification discussions; distinctive emails.

Some of the reasons for not top posting are out-dated in many situations. For example, with Gmail space isn’t really a problem, nor is space on my hard drive. Email is probably more reliable these days, there’s less need for people to be afraid of a 300kb file not making it through where a 100kb file would. It does strike me as good manners to not just leave a bunch of quoted emails pointlessly at the bottom of a reply.

Some reading I found interesting about top posting:

What’s your practice? Does it matter at all?

Comments

  1. says

    I reply to lengthy emails that way. I click the REPLY button, and I type my responses below each point, and I usually bold my responses.

    That way, I ensure that:
    (1) ALL concerns are answered and taken care of (I don’t miss any point), and
    (b) it is easier for the recipient to follow the email, instead of scrolling up and down throughout the email.

  2. Justin says

    Hmm…I had never come across this until I started trading occasional emails with Dave…
    Most of the time…I just hit reply, and reply…I find it just as easy, and better for a swift response, if you aren’t working in a time frame etc.

    Also just testing a comment…=]

  3. says

    I always Top Post and hadn’t realized it was rude :) Although I am in the habit of deleting the quoted stuff as well and not just in emails, I tend to do this with PM’s on forums also.

    The odd time I get an email full of questions is different as I’ll usually add my answers after the questions for easier reading by the recipient, but I’ve only had two of these that come to mind.

  4. says

    I don’t really care about the theory of it; I get really annoyed when I receive emails from people who reply below the quoted text. They usually do not reply interspersed between quoted text–they just quote at the bottom of a large chunk. So when I open the email, all I see is what I originally had sent them, and I have to scroll all the way to the bottom of their messages in order to see their replies.

    Top posting is great, because I get their replies immediately. I scroll down to see the quoted text only if I need a reminder of the context of our conversation. It’s much faster than having to sort emails as a threaded conversation and then click through each email to find out what was said before.

    Of course, this applies mainly to email. If I’m in an online forum, I would prefer that the user quote only text she will be directly replying to, since forum threads usually display the entire context of the conversation anyway (not just a single post)–whereas email clients tend to display only one message at a time.

  5. says

    pelf – Good on you! Haha, I noticed after writing this that we both responded to comments via email by top posting. I guess it’s not as bad because they’re such short messages?!

    Jus – Yeah, often it doesn’t matter, but it doesn’t hurt to take a bit of extra time making your emails more readable (check spelling, grammar etc). Do you learn grammar at school these days? I know I didn’t do much of it at school.

    Bob – I think that if you delete the quoted text then it doesn’t count as top posting. :P

    A.Y. Siu – That’s actually worse! To bottom post with all of the quoted text at the the top is much ruder that top posting. As you say, it’s making people scroll and it’s just delaying your response.

    I like on forums how you can tick a box to quote other people and that sort of thing. It’d be cool if blog comments had that.

  6. says

    interesting — i never thought about it in this way. using outlook, lotus and other email software, it always put the quoted text on the bottom and leaves your cursor blinking ready to type (on top of the quoted text). so i commented on the top out of habit, because of the software and because i was used to it. And it become kind of the norm to everyone else too as it was quick and fast.

    however, it would also depend on the purpose of the email reply. for example, if it was a business email, big project and a customer emailed a whole list of questions, what i would do is break out snippets of quoted text and put the reply/ answer to the question beneath it (normally in a different color). that way, the person doesn’t need to flip back and forth to figure out what you are talking about. it creates a systematic and organized way to structure your response. it also acts like a checklist so you won’t miss out on answering a question.

    in a business situation too, i believe it is good to have all quoted emails on the bottom in correspondence as it creates a reference and post mark system to what was corresponded before. that way, you can reference something without him/ her having to look at previous emails. i do find myself scrolling down to read the previous quoted emails just to catch up on what was done.

    saying that, i do find myself getting a little irritated when it is a personal email and the response is on the bottom without any reason. i don’t really like scrolling down the whole entire email before trying to read the response — especially when you have tons of email you have to catch up on. i do also have to agree with you that if there isn’t a reason for the quoted text to be there, it should be deleted. in outlook, you can set it such that the quoted text is indented, where a “>” is inserted before the quoted text or to reply without the quoted text at all.

    all these years, i’ve only got a handful of personal emails that had the response on the bottom. With business emails, i’ve never received emails with quoted text on the top and the response on the bottom.

    i think the whole thing about emails is the informality of it. BLOCK LETTERS IS A NO NO AND VERY ANNOYING, so is sMaLL aNd LoWeR CaSe LeTtErS. guess you get the pic of what i’m saying.. hehe :crazy:. it just goes with the norm of what people are used to and because of simplicity and minimal effort, people have resorted to top posting and it has become ok.

    talking about top and bottom posting, i noticed in outlook (and google) that when you get an email in the inbox, it defaults to placing a new email on top of the old emails rather than placing it on the bottom (after the last read email). Placing it on the bottom after the last email would be the most logical (you would think right). someone told me once that it is likened to placing your newly opened snail mail letter on the top of a pile instead of the bottom — i guess i can see the analogy. maybe that analogy applies to top posting too.

    BTW: didn’t you have security word capchas before before someone posted a comment? just wondering why you took it off.

  7. says

    Hey Foo,

    I think leaving the whole block of text at the top is silly. I think it either needs to be completely deleted or sorted though and keep only the relevant bits. As you say, sometimes it can be okay to leave it at the bottom for reference or accountability.

    True about informality. I wish people would just use words and grammar properly (or as much as they can)!

    I use Spam Karma 2, which (I think) gives you a captcha if it’s not sure about your comment. Maybe if you have a couple of links in the comment or don’t have javascript on, it might not be sure whether you’re a real person.