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(FAQ)  

Of proper quoting (on the Usenet news)


Originally from
ftp://garbo.uwasa.fi/pc/link/tsfaqn.zip
Questions from Usenet and Timo's answers


Besides the actual content, of course, proper formatting of your Usenet news postings can significantly enhance the effectiveness and credibility of your postings. Let's consider the issue of proper quoting of the postings you are responding to. I am sure that you have seen text quoted innumerable times in the following manner:
 
> This is quoted text
 
The number one rule of quoting is quote judiciously. Quote only what is essential to make it possible for the reader to understand what your posting or email message is about. As a rule avoid quoting an entire message (signatures and all). It is not judicious to quote, say, a hundred lines of discussion just to input a single line of one's own. Proper quoting is a skill. If you are going to quote, devote some time to working the quote appropriately. Don't be lazy in this respect.
 
A further tip adapted from Mark Rogers. Leave a blank line after the quoted text before you insert your own because else your text and the quoted text will difficult to distinguish from each other.
 

Where is the best place to put quoted text? Above or below my comments?
 
   From an unknown origin:
     A: Top posters.
     Q: What is the most annoying thing on Usenet?
 
Above! Some more recent standard email and newsreader programs have assumed a very problematic feature. They include the message which you are responding to below your message. Don't allow that to happen. The proper order is
 
      > Quote 1 (properly pruned)
 
      Your response 1
 
      > Quote 2 (properly pruned)
 
      Your response 2
 
In other words Some (often obscure) Usenet newsgroups and Microsoft's own newsgroups (hardly surprising!) may show and have developed different preferences and practices as to the order and extent of quoting. This definitely is not what to go by in general on the Usenet news. Also, one of the arguments that has been posed in favor of the excessive quoting is that threads may be broken and full quoting is therefore imperative to be able to follow what is going on. No, that is what the news repositories are for. Besides, in well-planned quoting it is amply sufficient to give the essence. Concise and at the same time informative quoting indeed is a skill to be practiced.
 
Of course it is fair to ask why
 
      > Quote 1 (properly pruned)
      Your response 1
      > Quote 2 (properly pruned)
      Your response 2
 
is better than
 
      Your entire response
 
      > All old quoted
 
Email and Usenet news are typically used for modern, often almost real-time exchanges which can closely resemble a verbal discussion rather than a correspondence by snailmail where the time between the letters is days or weeks. In a good discussion one interacts, rather than keeps up separate monologues. Thus it is very natural to quote a point, respond, quote the second point, respond and so forth.
 
Adapted from an advisory posting by Bob Gootee: Answering above the original message is called top posting. Sometimes also called the Jeopardy style. Usenet is Q & A not A & Q. (The name obviously comes from the game of Jeopardy, where the competitor is given the answer before the question.)
 
A similar point from a posting by Tuomas Venhola: If you start with your answer, it is a bit like telling the punch-line before giving the background.
 
As for the Microsoft's public newsgroups even there the official policy warns against quoting below your answer and against excessive quoting!
© Be accurate with your attributions. That is in displaying who said what. In particular, if for the flow of the text you have to quote text that already is quoted, it may become quite difficult to get it right who actually said what. Be very careful not to indicate that someone said what in fact was written by someone else.
 
Consider a multiple quoting example below from a humor newsgroup. Try to follow who said what?
 
From: Timo Salmi a.k.a. Perfesser Pundit
Newsgroups: rec.humor
Subject: Re: Florida Supreme Court Deliberations
 
Zevra, my very own groupie <feldco@atol.net.invalid> wrote:
>Greg Evans <gregevans@town.net.invalid> wrote:
>>*Again* with the puns! You should maybe see a doctor.
>You think Timo would see me on such short notice?
Good brief!
 
Now let's see anew:
 
From: Timo Salmi a.k.a. Perfesser Pundit
Newsgroups: rec.humor
Subject: Re: Florida Supreme Court Deliberations
 
Zevra, my very own groupie <feldco@atol.net.invalid> wrote:
>Greg Evans <gregevans@town.net.invalid> wrote:
>>*Again* with the puns! You should maybe see a doctor.
>You think Timo would see me on such short notice?
Good brief!

Are there any situations where top posting is warranted?
 
I would say, on the Usenet news, simply no!
 
However, in business or other professional email correspondence the situation is more involved. If a discussion is prolonged and especially if other parties are later drawn into the discussion, for full documentation (sometimes involving official or even legal purposes) top posting could be considered an operational, valid alternative. Much depends on your office practices.
 
To better understand this aspect, consider how fundamentally different Usenet news and email threads can be, despite the superficial similarty.
My replies on a newsgroup are met with a notice "A News NNTP error: Article not posted - more included text than new text". What's the score?
 
Well the message is very obvious. What happens is that some newsprograms indeed refuse to do the posting if you have written less than quoted. The solution is as obvious. Quote more judiciously.
 
But what if you absolutely need to quote more? First be very sure about it! The quote character usually is ">". Try changing it. How to do that depends on your environment. I'll leave finding out the rest up to you.
Spam (unsolicited commercial advertising), and various types of scam such as chain letters (illegal in many countries) are a big nuisance both in email and on the Usenet news. Do not aggravate the situation by fully quoting such a scam on the news. Most users who do it do it out of ignorance. However, occasionally the fully-quoting complaint is just a pretense to get away with posting more spam. It is a well-known ploy.
 
Furthermore, even the genuine complaining about spam on the newsgroup is a wasted effort. The spammers seldom stay around to read the postings in the newsgroups, which they pester with their unwelcome material. If you truly wish to do something about the posted spam, find out where it comes from, and email a complaint to the proper abuse address. Since much, if not most, of the spam comes from forged addresses, you'll first need to find out where it actually originated. Services such as Spamcop can be used for that purpose. There also are further useful links about spam  on my advice web pages.
The posting that I consider quoting has an "X-No-Archive: yes" header. Does that mean I shouldn't quote at all, since the quoting in my reply would end up in the news archives?
 
I am not aware of an established netiquette practice in this respect, so I'll give my personal view. The header is above all a technical signal from the poster to the news repositories not to store the posting. Reasons for using it can be many, such as e.g. avoiding regular FAQ postings from overly repeating themselves.
 
Even if the original posting has been marked for not to be stored on the news repositories, it was publicly posted, right? In my view, as long as you otherwise observe the proper netiquette in your reply and only quote judiciously as explained on this page, it is up to you what you post and what you don't. The reply is yours, not the original poster's.
 
There is a further, practical aspect. Not all the program for reading the news will necessarily show that header, so human readers can well miss it. Besides, there is bound to be a lot of users on the world wide net who have no idea what such a header means even should they see it.
 
In summary, I would say that you can safely ignore a "X-No-Archive: yes" header when you respond. John Savage added a tip to this by pointing out that if one is extra anxious about it, one can, of course, drop out the attributions from one's own posting. The problem, however, is that (unless stated) how does one really know the original reason for using the X-No-Archive designator.
 
Quite another question is when one should use the X-No-Archive header in the first place. This is mostly outside the scope of this particular page, but for example I set the header to my automatic FAQ postings. It is not very useful to have such frequent material in the repositories in multiple copies.
© Especially if and when you quote from outside sources, copyright issues can arise in quoting. They are beyond this FAQ, but there are some links to copyright considerations at the end of this page. However, the very least one should take care that one gets one's attributions right.

Forwarding and signatures

Forwarding is a close relative of quoting. The top / bottom sequencing of the message parts can have consequences:


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