Trim Your Posts
by Brad Appleton, Software Tools Developer -  bradapp@enteract.com
(From: http://st-www.cs.uiuc.edu/~chai/writing/trim-posts.html )

Some of us seem to be forgetting our netiquette. There is a very old, well established and well known tenet (apparently not well known enough :-) called "TRIM YOUR POST". I'll rephrase it here in a format which may be most appropriate for subscribers of this mailing list:

Name: TRIM YOUR POST

Context:
You should TRIM YOUR POST anytime you are replying to an email message or to an article on Usenet News. This should be done for private email as well as for public email (such as a mailing list) but is even more important to do for group email messages (e.g. to a mailing list) because it affects more people.
 

Forces:
Most email and newsreader software will automatically include the entire text of the message/article to which you are replying. This makes it easy for you to remember the specific comments you want to respond to. When you compose your reply, you would like to:
    •Use the minimum amount of effort possible. Leaving the entire text of the previous message unmodified (usually at the end of the message) saves you the time of having to delete all or part of it from your editor buffer/window.
    •Make the most favorable impression upon the greatest number of people. You don't want people to think you are foolish or ignorant. Using intelligent writing is the most helpful thing here, but you also need to make sure your tone and behavior and even your message topic and content are appropriate for your intended audience.

Be considerate of the time and computing resources to your users. Common pitfalls are:
    1. Laziness or ignorance: One simply includes the entire message text unmodified. This is the easiest to do, but it is a breach of standard netiquette: Not all readers will be aware that you didn't add any extra text to the quoted message and will waste time looking for further comments from you.
    2. Some email programs make it clear the author's text has ended and that the text of the included message has begun. This is usually a good sign to look no further for new message content, but it is still a breach of netiquette: even though the user may no longer be wasting time to look for further comments, all that extraneous/unnecessary text takes up computing resources (network bandwidth and diskspace) for every single subscriber to the newsgroup or mailing list. All those extra bytes cost money to disseminate across the planet and the owner of the computing and network resources is usually the one who ends up paying for it. It also takes up unneeded space in the users incoming mail folder (inbox, mailbox, mailbin) and makes it that much more likely for the folder to reach its capacity limit. This may not sound like much for a single message, but when everybody does it, each message gets longer and longer and mailboxes will fill up *very* quickly.
    3. In addition many people who have been long-abiders of standard netiquette can become quite incensed at such a blatant breach of such a basic and long standing netiquette rule. They will have a bad impression of the poster (thinking them to be ignorant or rude) and often respond with polite (and not so polite) admonishments to the author. They may also give your words less weight if they think you are not knowledgeable/courteous enough to follow such netiquette. In their opinion, if the sender doesn't have the decency to take a few extra seconds of their own time to be mindful of the time and resources of the many hundreds or thousands of other participants on the forum, then they shouldn't bother wasting any of their time to read it.

Missing context: some will simply remove the quoted text entirely from the message, or else set-up their mail/news software not to include the text in the first place. Sometimes this is acceptable, but more often than not, it exhibits two problems: (1) it becomes more difficult or takes more effort to respond to specific points in the email; (2) email messages don't always arrive at their intended destination in the order they were originally sent. Someone may see a reply before the see the original message that prompted it. Without at least some context information regarding the previous message, they may not be able to make any sense of the message.

Solution:
TRIM YOUR POST appropriately. Do *not* quote/cite the entire text of the previous message when you reply. Rather, include *only* enough information so that the intended audience may easily discern the author and time of the original message, and the specific comments to which you are directly responding. Intersperse the specific comments in your reply among the specific sections of the previous message that they directly address. All other portions of the included message text should be trimmed away (deleted) from the message to be sent.

Example:
Suppose the text of the original message is:
  Dearest Gomez, how kind it was of you to come over so quickly and
  help Lurch and Thing remove Cousin It from the garbage disposal (which
  happened when Wednesday mistook It for a hairball from the cat and
  decided to see how well "Liquid Plum'r" really works on the drain). It
  was very grateful for your assistance and wanted me to make particular
  mention of it to you.

  I also wanted to know when you will be coming home for dinner tomorrow
  night. I plan on making one of your favorites: Hypothalmus Tetrazini
  soaked in a light phlegm marinade and just a delicate touch of
  formaldehyde, served with fresh corn (from Lurch's feet). I want to
  ensure that the corn doesn't become get soggy and that the marinade
  has the proper consistency before you partake of this epicurean
  delight.

  Also, can you please bring the following items home from the grocery
  store today on your way home from the studio:

    - Dr. Scholl's Corn & Callous Remover
    - Mazola Corn Oil
    - Robitussin DE (or any other suitable nasal decongestant).
    - Fresh tripe from the Deli
    - "Head" cheese
    - Three-way light bulbs (for Uncle Fester)
    - Six Rubbermaid petrie dishes
    - Industrial strength motor oil
    - Peanut butter
    - Prince' pasta (the vermincelli variety - extra thin)
    - Preparation H hemmorhoidal ointment and suppositories
       [ unfortunately, Wednesday positioned It in the garbage disposal
         in a fashion that was quite different than "head first" :-(   ]

  I fondly await your reply,
  Morticia <morti@addams.family.org>
 

An appropriate response which trimmed the above text appropriately might
be:
  On Fri Oct 31 1997, Morticia Addams <morti@addams.family.org> writes:
  > Dearest Gomez, how kind it was of you to come over so quickly and
  > help Lurch remove Cousin It from the garbage disposal

  It was my distinct pleasure to offer my assistance. Tell "It" that a
  good cockroach bath should help remove all the extra debris that was
  entrenched in the fur from the disposal.

  > I also wanted to know when you will be coming home for dinner tomorrow
  > night.

  I should be home by midnight. Unfortunately - they'll be keeping us
  late tomorrow nite. They want me to do a retake on the scene I do with
  Julie Newmar, where Catwoman and the Riddler conspire to give the
  dynamic duo a big, bad bat-wedgie -- stripping them down to nothing
  but their utility belts ("Holy Fruit of the Loom Batman!").

  > I plan on making one of your favorites: Hypothalmus Tetrazini

  Ahh - my mouth is salivating at the mere mention of your momentous
  meal. You know I have such high expectorations for your cooking!

  > Also, can you please bring the following items home from the grocery
  > store today on your way home from the studio

  Gladly!

  Yours,
  Gomez Addams <riddler@holland-dozier-holland.com>
 

Note how Gomez was so courteous as to include only minimum essential contextual information and removed details to which he did not respond directly (such as the origin of It's predicament, the content of the meal, and the items on the shopping list).

Resulting Context
Your readers will thank you! They may not say so explicitly all the time but they will appreciate you making the extra effort to show them basic internet courtesy and consideration for their time and resources. The audience of your message will be less likely to draw any sudden/rash conclusions regarding your internet communications "savvy" (or lack thereof). Disks will have more space available for other messages and files. Your message will be another reinforcing example to would-be-posters of the desired norm for correspondence on the forum. Fewer people will insert you into their "kill" files and "ignore" filters and your words will have a wider audience.

Related Patterns
a.. Meaningful Subject Line
    b.. Lurk Before You Leap
    c.. No more than 80 Columns
    d.. Use Plain Text Please
    e.. 6-line Sig Limit
    f.. Don't write what you wouldn't say face-to-face