There are several ways people reply to e-mails, and I have yet to settle on the preferred solution. I can think of three main ways to handle the text to which you are responding:
A. Remove all the text of the previous e-mail.
B. Leave all the text from all previous e-mails.
C. Leave just the text from the most recent e-mail, snipping the rest.
If you use B or C you can place your reply in different places:
1. Reply at the very top of the old e-mail.
2. Reply at the very bottom of the old e-mail.
3. Reply to each section throughout the text of the old e-mail.
I’ve done all of them, but of the first three, I usually prefer A and occasionally C. B can make the length of the e-mail unnecessarily large.
I used to use 3, but that caused several people to become confused, so I’ve either done A or if I include the e-mail, I use 1.
Another issue to consider is the difference between e-mail list etiquette and personal e-mail. I reply differently to a personal e-mail as opposed to a list because lists are often converted into digests or have archives somewhere, so it is easier to follow if most of the cruft is removed. I especially dislike seeing 10 15-line signatures or those annoying corporate disclaimers stating that whatever the person is saying has nothing to do with the company’s official policies. Those are prime candidates for being snipped before I reply.
What are your thoughts?