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Ball of Twine: Replying to Email

Replying to email

Most email software automatically includes the original email in a reply. For example, in Outlook, when I click "Reply", the system creates the reply email with the original email already included. I just add my reply.

The same is true of most other email software.

I receive 500 1000 emails per day. I write a hundred or so. I try to be responsive. I write them back just as fast as I can.

Then the problem happens. Later that day, or 2 days later or sometimes a week later, I receive a short, cryptic email. It contains only a few words:

Thanks for your help. Could you elaborate?

or

I've fixed the problem. Please add me to the webring.

or

Could you explain this more to me?

Do you know what they are asking? Of course you don't. To know what they are asking, you would have to know what email I sent to them.

And the problem is that I don't know what email I sent to them.

Now, the question makes perfect sense to the person asking the question because they know what email I sent to them. But, for me, whether it has been a few minutes or a few days, I've already moved on to dozens or hundreds of other emails. After I click "send", I don't remember all the details.

even a few details aren't enough. For example,

I've fixed the problem. Please add me to the webring.

I manage more than 50 webrings. Which one are we talking about? What was the problem? What is the website involved? What is the user id?

The problem is that because the sender didn't include our prior conversation and didn't give me any context, I have no idea what he is talking about. If only the sender had included in the reply the email I sent. If only.

There are three primary ways that this problem happens.

  1. AOL, and
     
  2. Other web based email systems
     
  3. Traditional PC based email in which the sender either doesn't include or deletes the prior email.

The biggest offenders are AOL and other web based email systems. The problem with them is that they do not include the prior email unless you explicitly tell them to.

Because they are deliberately trying to reduce the load on their servers, both AOL and other web based email systems consistently choose not to follow common standards and practices of the rest of the internet world. They do not include the prior message when replying. And, they do not provide a way for the user to change that default.

Instead, the user of AOL and other web based email systems must consciously make an effort to include the prior message every time they reply.

So, if you are an AOL user or a web based email user I have a major, humongous, big time request:

  • Please learn to include the prior email in your replies. It only takes a couple of clicks.

And regardless of what email system you use, I have a major, humongous, big time request::

  • After you learn to include the prior email in your replies, don't forget to do it .

How AOL Users Can Include Prior email

I am not an AOL user. This information has been courteously provided by other AOL users. If you have additional clarifications or suggestions, please email me. If you have similar tips for other email users, I would also love to hear from you.

To include the prior email in an AOL email reply:

  1. "Select" all of the email you are replying to, either with your mouse or by placing the cursor in that email and typing Ctrl-A;
     
  2. Then, after selecting all of this email, click to reply.

If you do it in this sequence, AOL will include the prior email in your reply.

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This page created:
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Fri, 25.Oct.2002

Last updated:
16:21, Sat, 10.May.2014

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