TIP OF THE WEEK: Quoting
This time, a less technical tip.
When responding to a message, particularly on a newsgroup or mailing list,
it is customary to quote part of the original text. Most mail programs
can do this for you automatically, by including the original text in your
reply with a special character (such as ">") at the beginning of each
line to show that it is a quote.
The purpose of this is to remind readers about the context of your reply.
This is especially important on a list, where others may not have read
Here are some things you can do to make quoting more effective and
1. Identify the person you're quoting, for example:
Joe Public writes:
>Anyone know where I can get Keith Keppel's catalog?
Not only does this remind everyone who wrote the original, but it
ensures that the quote will not be misread and attributed to you!
(An important point if you happen to be disagreeing with the original.)
2. Quote the minimum amount of text needed to establish context.
Not only does quoting unneeded text add to everyone's download time
(and charges, for some folks), but it can be irritating to those who
have just read the whole original message and don't care to relive the
experience. Pruning the quoted material requires some extra thought,
but it's an important part of good net manners. Be especially careful
if you receive the list in digest mode. Quoting an entire digest in
your reply can cause serious embarrassment.
3. Read nested quotes carefully, so you know who said what.
It can get quite confusing when there are quotes within quotes within
quotes. Pay close attention to avoid misunderstandings. Conversely,
if you're sending a message with nested quotes, take extra care to
arrange and label the text clearly.
4. Some mail software appends the original message to the end of the
reply, rather than using a quote character. This is less desirable,
because the reader sees the "context" only after reading the reply.
If it's what your software gives you, though, make the best of it
by using the same guidelines regarding labeling and pruning (if
The ideal is a reply that recapitulates all the important points of
the conversation with clarity, but does so very succinctly so as
not to bore anyone who's seen it all already.
Enjoy the list!
Tom Tadfor Little email@example.com -or- telp@Rt66.com
technical writer/editor Los Alamos National Laboratory
Telperion Productions http://www.rt66.com/~telp/