Absolute Beginner's Frequently Asked Questions

8. What is Top-Posting and why is it considered bad?

Top posting is when someone puts all their comments at the top of their post then quotes (usually the entire text) from the original post underneath it.

But why is it considered such a Bad Thing?

Given the way in which newsgroups are propagated, it can happen that someone will read a response before receiving the original. Therefore it is good practice to quote the parts of a previous message to which you are responding. But if you place all your comments at the top, the reader has to scroll down the page and hunt to see what it is you are replying to. I, and most other newsgroup regulars, tend to ignore people who make it too much hard work to figure out what it is they have to say.

If you deliberately make it difficult for people to understand you, you shouldn't really be too surprised or disappointed when they don't respond.

The correct manner of replying to a post is simply common sense, placing response after original, as in this example (the quoted comments are marked > and are in red)

>This is comment 1

And this is my reply to comment 1

>And comment 2

And my reply to comment 2

>And comment 3

And reply to comment 3

If you're still having difficulty in understanding why this interlacing of comment and reply is the sensible way of doing it, let me give you an example to ponder.

Which of the following exchanges do you find easier to comprehend?

Example 1.

Yes please.

One sugar and some milk.

>Would you like a cup of coffee?

>How do you take it?

Example 2.

>Would you like a cup of coffee?

Yes please.

>How do you take it?

One sugar and some milk.

With those examples, I rest my case.

But it's not my fault! my software automatically quotes the entire text of the message I'm replying to and places the cursor at the top. It's a real pain to have to trim the quoted stuff and type my comments after it!

Then you have a choice of three options:

  1. Get a newsreader which allows you a choice as to how quoting is handled.
  2. Accept that there are customs which have developed over the years and that a few seconds' work on your part to format your posts to comply with those customs will save others a lot of inconvenience and will make all the difference to whether you're welcomed or ignored.
  3. Place your own convenience ahead of the convenience of other readers of the group and carry on doing what you're doing. But if you decide to place your own convenience first then you won't be surprised or disappointed if other people decide to do likewise and simply ignore your posts.

The choice is yours.

Useful information about top-posting and message formatting

Upsidedown Posting
by Richard Christopher, Royal National Institute for the Blind, about the problems caused to blind newsgroup users by top-posting and overquoting


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