[Mailman-Users] The "right" way to reply to a mailing list

Lindsay Haisley fmouse at fmp.com
Thu Mar 19 23:47:28 CET 2015

On Thu, 2015-03-19 at 14:56 -0700, Carl Zwanzig wrote:
> On 3/19/2015 2:19 PM, Andrew Stuart wrote:
> > When I reply to a message on a mailing list, what is the “right” way to do it?
> > Should I be deleting previous thread text from my response?
> > Should I be adding anything in?
> > Is there some general ideas for the “right” way to reply to a message on a list?
> It all depends, and is rife with arguments. Look on line for 
> "top-posting/bottom-posting" and "reply-list/reply-sender" and you'll find 
> many, ahem, strident arguments for each way.
> For most lists, I press the "reply-list" button, delete the extraneous text, 
> and enter my response (as I've done here).
> At the very least, remove duplicated list footers, since each message will 
> get a new one.

In many mail user agents, when you press the "Reply" button the program
will analyze the headers, determine that the post being replied to came
from a list and offer a "Reply to List" option in addition to a simple
reply, which generally goes privately to the original poster.

Andrew said:
> For example I’m still not really clear on which field the list address
> should go into, and does it matter what other addresses go into to and
> cc fields.  I suspect it doesn’t matter much but I haven’t yet gone to
> the trouble of working it out (hey that’s what I’m doing now!).

It's pretty simple, actually.  The list address goes into either the To
or Cc field, and if you want others, not on the list to receive a copy,
put them in the Cc field also, but don't go overboard because some
systems will barf on "Too many recipients".  Two or three additional
recipients shouldn't be a problem.  Addresses can be separated with
commas, or with semicolons in the case of MS mail products such as

It is polite, though, to make sure you're not sending duplicate posts to
people by doing a "Reply to All" which will probably send a copy of your
reply to _both_ the list and the original poster.  I think that this is
a common point of confusion.  "All" in this context doesn't mean "all
the list subscribers", but "all the addresses in the headers."

As far as editing, top posting, bottom posting, etc. it's just a matter
of using good sense.  All communication should get as much meaning into
its context as possible, with as little "noise" as possible.  So as Carl
said, pull out extra footers and everything else that's not relevant to
the immediate focus of the conversation.  If you can read your own post,
and it makes good sense and gets your point across, as concisely as
possible, it doesn't matter what you cut or leave, or if you top post or
bottom post.

Lindsay Haisley       | "The only unchanging certainty
FMP Computer Services |    is the certainty of change"
512-259-1190          |
http://www.fmp.com    | - Ancient wisdom, all cultures

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