(un)professional e-mail skills -- was Re: JOB: Linux System Administrator

Corey Edwards tensai at zmonkey.org
Fri Sep 17 10:08:19 MDT 2010

On 09/17/2010 09:56 AM, Levi Pearson wrote:
> Of course I've experienced people not reading my emails very well, and
> you'll notice that I trim and post in context here because I think
> it's a great way to communicate, especially when those I'm
> communicating with do it too.  But at work, I communicate with a bunch
> of smart engineers (of the software and electronics kinds) that aren't
> familiar with the old unix email culture, and I adopt their
> conventions when I communicate with them instead of trying to convert
> them to mine.  Most emails are top-posted HTML email created by
> Outlook.  Somehow we manage to communicate pretty well.  I don't think
> the people who fail to communicate well would be able to do any better
> if they formatted their emails differently.  They'd just have a blob
> of text at the bottom of the email instead of the top, or they'd snip
> away everything they ignored in their reply.
> It's like editing source files.  C, for example, has a number of
> different formatting conventions.  I have one I like to follow, and I
> think it's clearly superior.  But when I work with code other people
> started, I conform to the in-place conventions despite the fact that I
> don't like them as well as mine.

I've avoided this thread so far but I have to give credit to Levi for
hitting the nail on the head. I'm reminded of the Robustness Principle,
brought to us by the famous Jon Postel, "be conservative in what you
send; be liberal in what you accept".

We had an engineer where I work who dogmatically refused to top post,
despite that being the convention here. It made email threads with him
nearly impossible to read. Is bottom posting with trimmed replies
better? Arguably yes. I must ask though, is your goal to communicate or
merely to be right?


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