I just use stock Apple mail client and always bottom post (and snip as appropriate) and I get so many non tech people who approach me in the hall and ask "how do you do your emails the way you do? can you show me?"
My narrative has always been that Gmail simply followed the trend that Microsoft's tools set in motion with their monopoly^H^H^H^H^H^Hy^H^Hpopularity amongst business users.
Of course, I'm not even sure how many modern/younger readers will understand why "^H". I'm getting too old for this.
My theory is that snippet and reply may lead to taking quotes out of context and replying with an uncharitable interpretation of the snippet.
So while top posting may be less logical and efficient, I believe it may be more conducive to a friendly discussion.
Of course I could be completely mistaken about this, and it was just a coincidence that the communities I was involved in where top posting was heavily criticized had cranky people in them who would have found something to get upset about regardless of posting style.
Edit: I don't mean to imply that you are one of those cranky people just because you like bottom posting or snippet and reply! :-) Just observing something I noticed in online forums many years ago.
Whenever you start to see multiple quote snippets appear in an HN (or any forum) comment thread, it's basically guaranteed to have died and splintered into a bunch of uncharitable nit picks.
It encourages https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gish_gallop.
>It encourages https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gish_gallop
[Insert smarmy HN-stlye dismissal here]
I suspect that it's not just about taking time to inline quotes, but also simply about seeing what you're replying to directly next to your answer, as opposed to having it be separated by at least a large message header and likely by much more.
Another sad fact is that people re-invent inline quoting in Outlook culture all the time, badly: they manually copy relevant parts into their top-posted response, or they use some sort of color coding to write their own response inline.
> I like top posting.
I find top posting with inline, contextual comments when necessary, most useful.
> I find it makes things unnatural to read.
>> I like top posting.
My theory is that we're all so used to internet debates unfolding in snippet-and-reply-like formats that we associate snippet-and-reply with argumentative discussion by default.
Fast forward to 2019, and I can say that roughly 80% of students in the class didn't know what POP, IMAP or SMTP were. Before being able to get started on the assignment, we would have to provide them with additional material explaining how emails are delivered and what an email client does to retrieve them. The majority of students just grew up using the Gmail app or whatever self-configuring email clients they had on their phone/laptop, so they had no idea of what we were asking them to build.
Fast forward to 1999, and I can say that roughly 80% of students in the class didn't know what ed was. Before being able to get started on the assignment, we would have to provide them with additional material explaining how to use a line editor and why you need one. The majority of students just grew up using Emacs, VI, Notepad or whatever visual editor they had on their computer, so they had no idea of what we were asking them to build.
Just as you'd expect a CS student to know what Emacs is, even if they've never used it.
Relying on gmail horrifies me, because it's a classic political enclosure pattern.
MS Office was designed to fit business processes, and it does that well.
It's not a surprise that Apple's mail client falls over attempting to support business functions.
A standardized method of sending a set of email messages as messages, rather than copied into body text, predates Microsoft Outlook.
MIME may be the technically superior solution...But like Betamax and MiniDiscs, it lost out to the easier-to-use solution.
A MIME digest would be used for the case that you want to provide someone a bunch of messages they don't already have. In that case, this brings up another reason this is superior to including the thing as text: it preserves all the threading and other metadata.
Insert your cursor in their message, press enter and respond to every part worth responding to - inline. (you may want to sign your entry)
Remove all parts of the previous message(s) that do not directly build towards the current conversation.
It should look so organized that the new participant immediately adopts the format. If they fail, do it for them. (preserve the sane part of their signature)
Doing it like this really feels like you are talking with serious people who would never waste your time. That said, you can now ask how their weekend was. That part of the conversation is simply removed later on.
Also, the suggested alternative, MIME attachments, simply doesn't work well in most mail readers. It's barely usable in Gmail and not at all usable on iPhone or Android. (Ironically, it works quite well in Outlook.)
Microsoft Outlook made sense once you (or at least me) realized it was designed to send memo's not email.
For all the other modern readers: http://answers.google.com/answers/threadview/id/386870.html
There is also an accepted convention for ‘writing under erasure’; the text>
Be nice to this fool^H^H^H^Hgentleman, he's visiting from corporate HQ.
Accidental writing under erasure occurs when using the Unix talk program to chat interactively to another user. On a PC-style keyboard most users instinctively press the backspace key to delete mistakes, but this may not achieve the desired effect, and merely displays a ^H symbol. The user typically presses backspace a few times before their brain realises the problem — especially likely if the user is a touch-typist — and since each character is transmitted as soon as it is typed, Freudian slips and other inadvertent admissions are (barring network delays) clearly visible for the other user to see.
Deliberate use of ^H for writing under erasure parallels (and may have been influenced by) the ironic use of ‘slashouts’ in science-fiction fanzines.
> A: Because it messes up the order in which people normally read text.
> Q: Why is top-posting such a bad thing?
In longer threads, top posting makes it cumbersome to understand which points a responder is replying to. Most top posters (a generalization) tend to avoid point-to-point quotes and answers to establish context. Top posting is easy for a lazy writer, and transfers cognitive load to the readers.
Q: Why is top-posting such a bad thing?
A: Because it messes up the order in which people normally read text.
My point is that you almost never read a single message in isolation, so bottom-posting makes you re-read everything you've just read all over again. If you happened to be reading an individual e-mail from the middle of a chain, bottom-posting would be slightly more convenient (and inline-quoting would lose information). Top posting gives you reverse chronological order, prioritizing what is important, and is friendly for discussions with changing number of recipients.
As soon as you attempt to have more complex conversations, say about subtle technical issues, it falls flat on its face and inline quoting becomes far preferable.
In a way, this is a culture issue similar to the whole maker schedule vs. manager schedule discussion. A lot of management types engage primarily in shallow conversations, and so they may think relying on Outlook is fine, while being totally unaware of the damage it does to the engineering part of the organization (and possibly to themselves).
 In part this is inherent to a manager's role. For example, in many cases a manager's email may simply be the message "yes, dear direct report, you have formal permission to proceed with your plan". There's just inherently less deep thinking in a management role, when compared to engineering roles. Of course, deep thinking should occur in management as well in plenty of places, and the best managers do recognize that. But unless they come from an engineering culture, they're probably not even aware what they're missing with top posting.
Personally, I am a fan of inline-quoting, but only when I know I'm talking 1:1 or with a fixed group of people. If new people are expected to be included down the line - as is frequent with conversations that seek approval or feedback in a company - then I default to top-post to preserve the history of the conversation.
I don't know how a deep engineering conversation looks when written down, because I'm yet to see any in a work setting; whenever a problem approaches any interesting complexity, someone can't handle the complexity and calls for video or IRL meeting.
If there's a culture problem, I think the "maker" group is much smaller than the group of engineers. I personally blame webmail (GMail and others), which by virtue of popularity essentially set the rules for how e-mail is supposed to work, and more importantly than defaulting to top-posting, popular webmail clients don't handle tree structure. Inline-quoting makes sense when your discussion forms a tree, and not a stream of messages.
always bottom posting is nearly as awful as always top posting.
email is for the reader, not the writer. write to your reader’s expectations and to maximize their understanding, not to appease your own sense of what is “correct”
I'm getting old, aren't I.
the lot of us are stuck on vt52s
Edit: it looks like you've posted a lot of good comments but also quite a few that break the site guidelines. Could you please take the spirit of the site—thoughtful and curious conversation—more to heart? We'd be grateful.