David of Ruby on Rails fame has a blog post about the ongoing difficulties in avoiding using top replies when you’re emailing. As an old school geek, I have similar urges. To me, you should trim the email you’re replying to and write your answers beneath the specific lines in your reply.
Unfortunately, only old school geeks adhere to that custom these days, and as he points out, the people who make email software don’t want to cooperate. Not only do nearly all email clients default to the “top reply” style, but it seems like most email clients expect incoming email to be structured that way as well. Heck, Gmail generally wants to hide quoted parts of emails entirely so that you don’t have to look at them. That makes sense if people are replying and just keeping the full test of the old email at the bottom, but not if the quoted text is carefully selected by the person replying to the email.
So the question is whether there’s any point at all in the old etiquette. Have what used to be good email manners now become old fashioned?