Guidelines for Quoting Other Messages
- The good news is that thanks to James McGrath, those of us who've
never seen a Daily Digest before now know what one looks like. (I
would have thought it would have contained hyperlinks, but it has the
whole message. Oh, well, that's a matter for another day.) The
bad news is that James, whose notes to the list have been a model
of messaging, will probably kick himself when he gets his Daily Digest
tomorrow, and others who receive one will be confused when they find
yesterday's DD inside today's. It's rather humorous in a way, but it
provides an opportunity to discuss some guidelines for quoting material
from another message to which one is replying.
The problem is the emailer. I suspect that almost all of them are like
the one I use (Outlook Express), in that when a sender replies to
someone else's message, the emailer automatically copies that
message into the reply. The new message is placed above the old
one, so that if the sender _fails to delete the old one_, it'll appear at
the bottom of the sender's message. That's something that we and
other scholarly lists want to avoid. If held unchecked, it results in a
series of increasingly lengthy messages, each one copying every
one that preceded it. The old content becomes even messier and
more annoying as the quote-indent marks pile up, forcing more
and more single lines to split. Only one way to avoid this unsightly
clutter: Remember to delete what you're not using! Always.
What if you're responding to the whole of another message? There's
two situations to be considered, I think. If you're going to respond to
several points separately, quote the material you need for each point,
then respond to that material. DO NOT copy whole chunks of material
in between points that you're responding to unless those chunks are
themselves relevant. There's nothing unethical in leaving out stuff from
the original message that you believe to be irrelevant to your point(s),
and the reader will thank you for doing so.
In the second situation, the sender may feel that his/her message is
a response to the entirety of an earlier message, but not on a point-
by-point basis. In that case, don't quote the earlier message at all.
A hyperlink to it is a nice touch, but basically if anyone else wants to
read it, it's already in the archives or in their mailbox.
One more thing - quoted (or even original) material sometimes comes
out badly because the emailer does things that the sender doesn't
notice until too late. It might, for example, unexpectedly split off a
word or two from one line and put it on the next line by itself.
(Happened more than once to me, it has :-). My recommendation
would be that if your emailer allows a composed message to be seen
as it would be sent (e.g., in a Drafts or Preview folder), _do that_.
Even if such a function isn't available, however, the message should
be rechecked in its entirety before being sent, so that it looks
professional. Yes, it takes a little longer, but it adds to reading
enjoyment and reflects well on the sender.
Best to all,
- --- In firstname.lastname@example.org, "Michael Grondin" <mwgrondin@...> wrote:
>or two from one line and put it on the next line by itself.
> It [the emailer] might, for example, unexpectedly split off a word
The culprit is Word Wrap. The easiest thing seems to be:
1. Compose the response in Notepad (or other basic text editor).
Include all quoted material.
2. Turn off Word Wrap in Notepad (uncheck it in the Format drop-down
menu). This converts all paragraphs to a single line. If any paragraph
remains as multiple lines (for example, the quoted material), convert
to a single line by deleting the Return character (which is
invisible!) at the end of the top line. Repeat this until the
paragraph is displayed as a single line, or until deleting the
invisible Return character produces no effect.
3. Select the message response text in Notepad.
4. Delete all unwanted text from the browser message response.
5. Copy and paste the selected text from Notepad to the browser
message response text box.
6. Preview (next to the Send button at the bottom of the browser
message response page).
7. Make corrections, Preview, then Send.
Step 2 may be time-consuming if you go to the end of each line to
delete the Return character, since you have to keep scrolling far to
the right. Once you get the hang of deleting the invisible Return
character, try removing it at the start of the next line:
a. Insert a space at the start of the next line.
b. Arrow back one space, then click the Backspace button. This should
send the line to the right of the one above it.
By the way, there are a couple of avantages to composing in Notepad.
One is that you get to proofread before putting anything in the
browser message response text box. Another is it doesn't copy XML or
HTML formatting codes to the message (usually these start with '&' or
'%'). This can happen if you copy and paste directly from Word or the