Top-posting occurs when someone replies to your message by adding reply content to the top of the message that you sent to them, usually leaving your whole message intact at the bottom:
From: manager To: you Seventeen. >From: you >To: manager > >How many should we buy? >-- >Acme Rubber Band Works -- Acme Rubber Band Works
The added content precedes the message to which it applies, so it appears out of order. A message forwarded back and forth with added top-posting has to be read backwards to be understood, from bottom-to-top, since the newer material is added on the top rather than on the bottom:
From: you To: manager Is that metric or imperial? >From: manager >To: you > >Seventeen. > >>From: you >>To: manager >> >>How many should we buy? >>-- >>Acme Rubber Band Works >-- >Acme Rubber Band Works -- Acme Rubber Band Works
In top-posting, little or no editing is done on the quoted reply:
Bottom-posting occurs when someone replies to your message by adding content to the bottom of the message you sent, after trimming your original message down to remove irrelevant header lines, signatures, and irrelevant quoted context:
From: manager To: you >From: you >How many should we buy? Seventeen. -- Acme Rubber Band Works
You don't usually keep the whole context when you bottom-post, you edit and only keep the directly relevant context:
From: you To: manager >From: manager >Seventeen. Is that metric or imperial? -- Acme Rubber Band Works
Even without removing prior context, a message forwarded back and forth with added bottom-posting reads in a logical order from top to bottom, like a story:
From: you To: manager >From: manager >>From: you >>How many should we buy? >Seventeen. Is that metric or imperial? -- Acme Rubber Band Works
A top-posted message is easy to write; since, it doesn't require the writer to edit any of the original message. If the original message asked one or more questions, the answers appear without any surrounding context at the top of the quoted message. As a consequence, a top-posted message makes the message reader do the work of understanding what was said.
Anyone new to a top-posted conversation has to read a message unnaturally from bottom to top. A reader may have to skip over the new top-posted comment at the top of the message and scroll down to the bottom of the message to see the context for the comment, then scroll back up, message by message, to read the added comments in an unnatural bottom-to-top reverse order. No editing has been done by the top-posting writers; so, each message contains irrelevant headers, redundant signatures, and irrelevant material.
Anyone reading a message digest, where multiple messages are saved up, joined together, and delivered as one big message at the end of the day, will find all the quoted material appearing over and over in the digest. Since the quoted material is usually much larger than the new material added, skipping over the quoted material in the digest often causes new material to be accidentally skipped as well. Top-posted email in message digests makes the digests huge and unreadable.
People who archive their incoming email and search it for keywords also find top-posted email awkward. Instead of finding one or two messages, a keyword search finds all the messages, since all the messages contain useless quoted copies of all the other messages. Again, the reader has to do extra work to mine the desired content.
A message passing through a series of top-postings becomes harder and harder to read; since, the information in the story line is presented in an unnatural backwards order, from bottom to top. The important, relevant content is surrounded by unnecessary headers, signatures, and irrelevant context.
Some argue that you should already know the context for a top-posted reply; so, scrolling down to read the quoted context bottom-to-top should be unnecessary. If you expect your reader to remember the context, you don't need to quote the original message back to him/her. If you think the quoted reply is necessary to establish the context of your reply, edit it down and bottom-post under it to make it read in a logical order.
Remembering context is also not true for people who deal with any significant volume of email. Your email may be only one of dozens (or hundreds) of simliar emails; don't expect your reader to remember the context of your top-posted reply, and don't force your reader to data-mine the quoted section to figure out the context for your top-posted reply. Edit your quoted material down to the essentials and bottom-post under it.
Knowing the context is also not true for people reading archived discussions, where the people reading the messages are either away from the discussion for a long time or are not the ones who originated the messages. A top-posted message thread forwarded to a third party also subjects the third party to a lot of unnecessary work reading bottom-to-top. Don't make your reader hate you.
The signal you are sending along with a top-posted reply is:
A new reader of a top-posted message has to decipher the correct order of the unnaturally reversed parts of the message. Multiply this work by dozens or hundreds of readers, and a top-posted message makes a lot of other people do a lot of unnecessary work.
A bottom-posted message makes the message writer do the work of preparing the message for easy consumption by the reader. The writer has work to do - to edit the original message to remove signatures and irrelevant context and then add the new comment to the bottom of the message.
The reward is that a message passing through a series of bottom-postings reads in a logical order from top to bottom. Bottom-posting (with editing out of irrelevant context) keeps a message short and easy to read and understand.
The signal you are sending along with a bottom-posted reply is:
Since the writer of a bottom-posted message has done the work to make the message easy to read, the dozens or hundreds of people reading the message don't waste time reconstructing it. A lot of human time is saved. (A lot of mailbox space is also saved!)
Outlook-QuoteFix can modify MS Outlook's message composition windows on-the-fly to allow for correct quoting and to change the appearance of your plain-text replies and forwards in general: move your signature, use compressed indentation, customize your quote header, etc. Try it: http://home.in.tum.de/~jain/software/outlook-quotefix/
A: Because we read from top to bottom, left to right. Q: Why should I start my reply below the quoted text? A: Because it messes up the order in which people normally read text. Q: Why is top-posting such a bad thing? A: The lost context. Q: What makes top-posted replies harder to read than bottom-posted? A: Yes. Q: Should I trim down the quoted part of an email to which I'm replying?
http://mailformat.dan.info/quoting/bottom-posting.html http://www.dickgaughan.co.uk/usenet/guide/faq08-topp.html http://www.xs4all.nl/%7ewijnands/nnq/nquote.html http://www.cs.tut.fi/~jkorpela/usenet/brox.html http://www.caliburn.nl/topposting.html http://firstname.lastname@example.org/msg00178.html
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