Tell us: Do you prefer to top post or bottom post?

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(3 votes)
Do you top post or bottom post?
Top post
55.1% (102 votes)
Bottom post
44.9% (83 votes)

When responding to an email do you post your response at the top or the bottom of the email?

And some other food for thought...

  • Does it matter?
  • Is there email etiquette for this type of behavior at your place of work, your organization, or your open source project?
  • Does it differ with personal email?

Tell us which you prefer and why.

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robinmuilwijk's picture
Open Source Sensei

Personally I think it matters, when you are on mailing lists for a project and/or community. I like having an etiquette, so everyone on the list replies either on top or bottom. Thus keeping the timeline of any conversation on the list in the right order.

When I was a core member at the Joomla project, we relied a lot on communication through mailing lists, and we had a clear etiquette for those lists.

With personal mails, it is less important.

cbredesen's picture
Community Member

Oh this requires more than an a/b answer :)

Bottom replies are easier to read, but you must be responsible. Replying to a long email with a one-liner way down there at the bottom isn't very nice. Trim out the bits that you're not really responding to. If you're giving an ultra-short-winded yes/no (and people do this!), maybe a top post is fine!

But to me the most important aspect of this debate is consistency. There are dead-set top- or bottom-posters who will break the flow of a conversation just to force their hand in the matter. If you're replying to a 2- or 3-level deep thread that reads bottom to top, is bottom-posting below all that (and thus closest to the oldest part of the message) really considerate of people who will be reading it?

Happy sensible-posting ;)

James K's picture

I also try and use a sensible set of rules to address this:

0. If a list has a rule, follow that rule. Usually I am trying to get information or be taken seriously, and this is an easy step toward achieving that.

1. If a list has That Guy, whose signature or sole purpose in life is to correct the egregious violations of the lists' quoting etiquette, then ignore previous rule. Just kidding, but it always crosses my mind.

2. If the primary conversation view is threaded (and the technology consistently works), then I top post. If the majority of people reading will be reading the conversation in context, then bottom posting would appear redundant.

3. But in more cases than not, messages are poorly threaded (threading messages has surprisingly few good solutions so far). So in these instances, I bottom post, for two reasons: context and aesthetics.

Context is clear, as my reply would only make sense after considering the previous information, which might be obscured by several levels. In a personal email, I do inline replies when it (a) makes sense and (b) doesn't matter if I sound like a question answering robot or debater. Do not inline reply most significant others:

>> and I just don't know if you really love me, James.

I do.

>> So I've been wondering about whether or not you'd be happier elsewhere.


Aesthetics, however, is a silly one, but one I attend to anyway. It turns out many quoted messages are in colored blocks. The colored blocks are often left justified, though this is not true necessarily for the containing text. So if the colored block is left justified, replies without the block naturally look like sub-points, like a header and the following content. To me, this looks correct to have the quote block first and the naked reply second.

4. Finally, if the quoted message is unnecessarily long, I often will remove as much as possible without obscuring the meaning, with appropriate annotations to signify this cut. I almost always remove any quoted media, such as embedded photos or video. I rarely, if ever, quote quotes.

5. There are probably more rules, but it turns out there are also rules about how much work I should get done today.

Pete Forsyth's picture

Hear hear to rule #1! ^_^

Nothing tempts me more to buck the etiquette, than insistence that I *must not buck the etiquette*.

If somebody is genuinely confused about what I'm saying, that's useful feedback, and I should reconsider how I expressed myself (including top- or bottom-post decisions).

If somebody just sees an opportunity to make their pet point, I am usually not sympathetic, as it is an unwelcome distraction from the topic of discussion.

Unless, of course, the topic of discussion is etiquette, in which case it's turtles all the way down!

todd_dsm's picture

The whole point is that an email should read like a court transcript. Some knucklehead(s) (probably Microsoft) gave users the option, then convenience crept in.

Who wants to scroll all the way to the bottom? Turns out nobody; I don't want to.

Now, emails read like a transcript - but in reverse.

Google, as we all know, is very standards-compliant, tribe. They have imposed a default 'bottom post' style in Gmail. I can't remember, or find the RFC that describes it, but I don't remember ever having seen a rule in an RFC either. The fact that they do this implies someone originally had an intent though.

Should it matter as long as the message was communicated?

TomL's picture

Personally, I can't stand top-posting, but unfortunately in the corporate world (from what I've experienced) that is the default. I tried to bottom post for awhile, but after countless 'I didn't see your reply' or 'you sent a blank reply', I stopped. I blame Microsoft Outlook for this.

I am on one mailing list that specifically uses bottom post (or inline, which is usually better), but it is the exception, not the norm.

Larry's picture

Let's not forget about [snip] and ellipses. For some conversations, inline posting (so noted at the top) makes sense. Always best to read it over, imagining oneself to be the recipient(s), before hitting the send button. Where a "transcript" isn't important, history 3 deep might be more than enough.

Rob Debelak's picture

I hate bottom-posting. I have no interest in scrolling through a list of replies I've already read just to get to the newest one at the bottom.

R.'s picture

As many already said, it depends.

1) If I am answering with a short answer to an e-mail that will not start a thread (e.g., "When and where are we going to lunch?") usually I reply on top since it is easier to write, to read and it is a "use and throw" mail

2) If the mail is/will be part of a thread, I usually reply on the bottom, so that it will be more natural to follow the discussion.

2.b) If the previous mail had several "items" usually I intervene my answer with the mail, to make it clear to which item I am replying.

Both in the case of 2 and 2.b, I can decide to cut away parts of the mail that are not important for my answer.

Of course, if the mailing list has a specific convention, I usually follow it.

Briefly: I have no rigid algorithm, I do each time what it seems more convenient for the specific context.

Scott Anderson's picture

R's rules are almost exactly the same as mine, so thanks to him for that. I think there's a distinction to be made between public email conversations, say in support forums, where someone may find something months later via a web search, and ought to read things in order, top to bottom, and private emails that are often immediate (so the context is still in the reader's head) and disposable. For example, the "lunch?" "yes" kind of email exchanges. In fact, the inbox on my current Gmail shows the first line of the message, so a short top-posted reply doesn't even require me to open the message.

-- Scott

chucktilbury's picture

I like top posting becasue I don't like scrolling the whole message to get the latest. I almost always want to see the latest response first.

All the best!
Chuck Tilbury

JRepin's picture
Open Enthusiast

I bottom post almost always, even in personal mails, not just in mailing lists. It just is more logical that the answer comes after the text you are answering to or commenting on. And yes you have to take some time and not be lazy and trim the text you are answering to and remove what you are not answering to. But unfortunately today many people are just too lazy to do all this.

KDE contributor