One of the highlights of my holiday break has been getting an email reply from Seattle-based tech writer Ben Brooks.1 In his reply, I noticed that he only quoted the relevant parts of my message. That got me curious, so I went poking around the archives on his site, and found this piece he'd written on interleaved email replies. It’s something I’d never considered before, but probably should have.

I’ll admit that, before reading Ben’s piece, I was one of those people who religiously quoted the entire message of every reply I’d sent. I thought nothing of it -- I’d just click Reply, type, and send. But a light bulb went off once I read Ben’s article. It’s so much easier and more efficient to reply this way: get rid of the extraneous crap and focus on the critical content. The concept is so simple and straightforward, I was kicking myself for not using this technique a long time ago. It just makes so much sense. And, honestly,from an aesthetic standpoint, I’ve always hated the way email reply chains have looked. All the metadata and the different colors make them look really, really ugly.

So, from now on, I will make a concerted effort to adapt the interleaved method into my own replying. (In fact, I did try it out with my reply to Ben’s reply. Here’s hoping he appreciated it.) Granted, I don’t get messages from real people too often2, but I figure mastering this technique will come in handy for those times when I’m actually responding to a fellow human being. In the meantime, though, I’ll just be grateful I’m geeky enough to be rummaging through TBR’s archives.

  1. I sent him a short message thanking him for his work, and to kindly ask if he’d peruse this site. He replied by saying “the site looks nice”, and asked about the truncated posts on the front page.

  2. I’d say 95% of my email is either spam or advertisements from retailers I shop with, etc.