Posting styles, and why top-posting is just fine

Something that always seem to raise a lot of opinion is how to reply to e-mail messages; or, to be more specific, where you write your reply in the context. I thought I’d explain my take on it.


Top-posting is if you write your reply at the top of the message, with the message sent to you quoted below. For example:

Sure, Ill be there at 12.00.
> Would you like to have lunch with The Swedish Bikini Team today?


Bottom-posting is, exactly as it sounds, the opposite to top-posting; you write your reply below the quoted text. For example:

> Any chance you want to do the keynote speech together with Sergey Brin? And maybe, after that, have a beer?
Well, ok, if I get to headline… And sure, beer sounds fine!

Interleaved posting

Interleaved posting is where you mix your replies together with the message that was sent to you, a bit like advanced bottom-posting. For example:

> We gotta go see Metallica in Stockholm this summer!
Most definitely!

> Can you get tickets?
No problem, I know this guy…

> And when should we meet outside the venue?
How about around 16.00, to get a good spot close to the stage?


Many experienced computer users shy away from top-posting like the plague, and it is generally frowned upon. To me, that’s just a waste of energy, since it is a fact that most people use top-posting. This might be due to the fact that that is the way implemented in programs such as Microsoft Outlook/Outlook Express, and it is also they approach used in Gmail, or just because they prefer it to be.

More inexperienced users sometimes have a problem finding the reply if it is below the text they sent to the recipient, meaning that they have to scroll down.

My choice

For short messages/questions, I think top-posting is the way to go. Unless you, or the person you are communicating with, are gifted with the memory capacity of a goldfish, or get 3 000 e-mails a day, everyone will know what the reply is in reference to and what the context is (and, if not, against all odds, just scroll down to read the previous message). Besides, not having to scroll down, and instead just seeing the reply right away makes it more usable and saves some valuable time.

For more complex e-mails, I use interleaved posting. I quote the text/question, write what I think about it, move on the next etc.

So, I plead to all of you: don’t make this harder than it is. Just use common sense for the context that the message and reply is in, and you will do fine.


  • Jeff says:

    I default to top posting mainly because I'm lazy and it's faster to just start typing than to move down below the quoted text and start typing when I'm replying.

    As you, I use interleaved posting when I'm replying to a long email so that I can address multiple points without causing confusion to the reader.

  • Kris says:

    Bottom- or Interleaved Posting resembles what happens at forums as well abd is ideal for discussions over and forth. In my company, top-posting is the norm. Though it works in most situations – I send a message, he/she sends me a quick reply – sometimes it is ends up in a total mess because it turns into a discussion.

    It gets worse when a top-posted discussion is being forwarded to someone who was’t included into this pingpong game. And there lies the advantage of bottom-posting: if you always bottom-post, even when it is just a short reply, the conversation will have a much bigger chance of making sense later on, when it has evolved into a discussion.

  • Bas says:

    Short replies are on top, longer replies are interleaved and mostly in a friendly color. I always introduce this on top:"see my comments in green".

    I know an example of someone who replied in capitals only because there where no formating possibilities. The reciever then asked why she was so angry…

    Writing emails is an art….

  • Chris Huff says:

    I do the same as you. Bottom posting seems ridiculous for most emails, but interleaving works well for replies to emails with a lot of questions or topics. Top posting is definitely the best option for most replies. When top posting, however, I be sure to use full sentences to clarify exactly what I am responding to. Instead of simply saying "Yes, I can," I write, "Yes, I can send you a mock-up of the website by next Tuesday." I find that this saves a lot of time and misunderstanding.

  • I like it when people send me email that is top posted—mainly because I hate scrolling through a ton of old stuff just to see the latest.

    My other pet peeve is when someone replies to one of my emails a week later and doesn't include my original email. They may be responding to something I asked…but without the context I don't have any idea what they're talking about…my memory is just not that good.

    And finally: People who don't write good subjects for their emails…or don't write one at all. I'm trying to scan my email for a particular one and I can't find it because they all have either useless, or missing subjects.

  • Pat says:

    I agree with Chris Huff. Top posting for short replies, interlacing for emails with many questions or such to address. I also ensure that I reply with a detailed sentence as well.

    Kris also makes a good point.

  • Top posting doesn't work for me. I have the memory of a goldfish and get 5000 emails a day. Or it's because I've been using email since before top posting came along and made it much less useful.

    I only top post in reply to other top posts and when the message has already been destroyed by several top posters (and is 200 KB in size).

    Are top posters the same people who like reading comment threads in reverse order?

    Oh, interleaved posting is da bomb.

  • Dan Kubb says:

    I can't count the number of times I've gotten replies back from people who use top-posting, and they only address the first of serveral questions in an email. I prefer interleaving because I can be sure that I'm replying to each individual point and not missing anything.

    When replying I also remove anything from the original email that my reply doesn't address, like offhand remarks that don't need any response. I try to keep the part I quote from them to the bare minimum so that there's less scrolling for them.

  • <blockquote cite="">I can’t count the number of times I’ve gotten replies back from people who use top-posting, and they only address the first of serveral questions in an email. I prefer interleaving because I can be sure that I’m replying to each individual point and not missing anything.

    I agree, although I have to be careful when replying to someone's extra long list of questions/comments that I don't end up sounding sarcastic.

    <blockquote cite="">When replying I also remove anything from the original email that my reply doesn’t address, like offhand remarks that don’t need any response. I try to keep the part I quote from them to the bare minimum so that there’s less scrolling for them.

    Whoops—Good point again. πŸ˜‰

  • Joe Clark says:

    In other words, Robert, your E-mails suck only some of the time. You are presenting this as an improvement over their sucking all of the time. I suppose in some perverse anti-reader manner it might be.

  • Tommy Olsson says:

    Top posting should be a capital offence! Especially when you get a forwarded email where two people have been top posting to and fro for a while. You then have to start at the bottom and work your way up to find out what it's about.

    Bottom posting may be acceptable if you're in a hurry or if it's a short message.

    But the courteous way is to intersperse your replies with the heavily edited original message.

    Top posting is common because it's encouraged by email applications like MS Outlook. That's what we have at the office, so I'll have to admit to top posting myself, simply because it's too difficult to do anything else with that POS software. Mea culpa.

  • Robert Nyman says:

    Thanks for your comments!


    Good point! As soon as more two parties are involved, I'd recommend interleaved posting.


    Well, I do hope that the quality of my (or anyone else's, for that matter) e-mails will be judged by many more factors than just the posting style… πŸ™‚

  • I use all three, it really depends on the content of the email, and the sender/thread.

    And I agree with the comment about poor or missing subjects. That's like designing a Web page with a title/H1 that have no relevance to the content of the page!

  • <blockquote cite="">And I agree with the comment about poor or missing subjects. That’s like designing a Web page with a title/H1 that have no relevance to the content of the page!

    Hear, hear!!!

  • I top post, then interleave if there are more than a few questions to be answered. Like Bas, I use a different color when interleaving a reply, though I don't use red or green. Not because of accessibility, but because I simply don't like red or green.

    I like to receive replies that are top posted because I can quickly see the response. For comments I prefer oldest to newest so I can see the context.

  • Lachlan Hunt says:

    I disagree. I never top post and never will, and mail clients that default to top posting are broken. You only need to quote enough to give context to what you're saying and it doesn't take much effort. For short messages, that is often little more than 1 or 2 lines. Everything else should be trimmed, particularly other people's signatures.

    The only forgivable exception is when the sender is using HTML e-mail, but that is only because HTML mail and proper quoting don't mix too well. However, HTML mail really shouldn't be used either.

  • dont bottom post me says:

    Some want to quote the RFC in the 90s explaining bottom posting as the original and final word on how to communicate electronically. However written communication has been around for millenia.

    I prefer to think of my personal e-mail as writing a letter and as far as I know it has never been good etiquette to send someones letter back to them with your comments on what they say written between the lines. I find this type of replying (in *personal* correspondance) lazy and quite aggressive.

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