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Why You Should Down-edit Email Responses

Business Email and Down-editing Etiquette

Recently, I was complimented twice about how I respond to emails. This is because I down-edit.

Both clients who mentioned this loved that I responded point by point to their inquiries instead of just hitting reply and top-posting. They stated they had never communicated with anyone so good at “it.”

One of the other comments was that they knew exactly what I was responding to, which they called refreshing. Too many just hit Reply to top post and, in the process, do not respond to questions asked or points made.

That’s what made me think about why some may be better at down-editing than others. Just like most things online, we are all self-taught. Maybe it’s because they are winging it.

Folks come here looking for guidance and clarification. So, today let’s discuss how to properly reply to an email by down-editing.

What is Top Posting?

Top posting is when you hit Reply and type your response above the email you are responding to. Your entire response is above the email you are responding to, which is below in its entirety.

Why is top-posting not conducive to clarity in your communications? You can very easily neglect to provide requested or necessary specifics. Questions end up unanswered. Or a gray area is created as to what your comments are specifically in response to.

Why Down-edit Your Email Replies?

Down-editing email is a skill that adds certainty to your communications by allowing you to respond point by point. Doing so also helps avoid misunderstandings due to the recipient not knowing exactly what you are replying to.

Once you hit Reply and type a courteous greeting, you should remove any part of the email that is unnecessary to the ongoing conversation as you continue. This includes email headers and signature files. In other words, down-editing allows you to respond to the guts of the email.

Branding Opportunity

Responding point by point reflects consideration for the sender’s time and your command of technology. Those you communicate with will not have to weed through your communications to get the info they seek.

You will quickly gain the reputation of being easy to communicate with. This is a positive for your brand in a day of communication overload.

By down-editing your email responses properly, you can leave that oh-so-important professional impression with new business contacts. Those who are determining what it will be like to do business and communicate with you via email.

It is a skill that is developed over time — by doing. Since most onliners are anemic in this area, you will shine by making these simple efforts.

Quick Tips to Down-edit your Email Replies

  1. Start by holding your left mouse button down, dragging it over the text you want to remove, and then hitting delete.
  2. Hit your enter key twice to put a blank line between where you will type your response and the text above that you are replying to. Next, type your comments as it relates to that particular content above.
  3. Continue to do the same as your reply continues. Remove what doesn’t matter, leave what does, hit enter twice, and type your response.
  4. What I do when I have removed a good bit of text is to type (snip) after a substantial deletion. This lets the other party know that I did, in fact, read that paragraph or portion of the text. They then know that I either have no comments specifically related to that portion of the email.
  5. Email becomes very difficult to follow when you start adding all the back and forth >>>>s or left sidebar vertical lines. With each new reply, down-edit all but the very last response that you are replying to.
  6. Many times after a bunch of back and forth, the email’s subject matter has changed direction too. If the topic has changed direction, get in the habit of modifying the SUBJECT: field to better reflect the current direction of the conversation.
  7. When replying to an ongoing series of emails where the SUBJECT: does not change, do what I do to keep your copies in order.
    • After the RE: or REPLY inserted by your email program, add a number. Before the SUBJECT: field’s content, as the back and forth continues, include REPLY [2], REPLY [3], REPLY [4], etc.
    • This is a great way to have the order of the entire conversation visible at a glance. This also allows you to keep the conversation in order when sorted by SUBJECT.


Now, there will be instances where keeping emails intact is important. Legal or sensitive issues come to mind where we need to have a complete record of a conversation or thread.

But that is the exception, not the rule. Use your discretion as to what must stay and what can be edited.

Be Known as a Clear Communicator

Have you received replies where you asked questions, but the sender did not answer them? Did they coincidentally top-post? Or how about the emails where you aren’t sure what the reply applies to — specifically?

Down-editing reduces having to create another email asking for clarification. When you down-edit, your contacts will know exactly, specifically, what you are responding to.

Integrating these steps when replying to your business email can help keep your conversations on track and easier for all to read. Now you have a few tips along with the benefits of implementing down-editing in your email replies.

Why not start impressing your contacts today?

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