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 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!
> 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.
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.