Email reply etiquette: How do you reply inline to someone’s email? [ASK MR. NOOBIE]

Ask Mr. NoobieQUESTION: I get email replies from people that put their answers to my questions right below each question. How do they do that? – Michael R from Danville, California

ANSWER: Proper email reply etiquette is to include a response inline when the original email is written in question form. One thing that drives me crazy when I send an email to someone with 3 questions is when they reply with the answers to only 2 of them. I think it’s because they don’t know how to do what you are asking. Which means they are just hitting the reply button and typing their answers in paragraph form just like any other email reply. Whether for personal or business emails, it’s a great skill to practice and looks something like this:

[note color=”#FFFFCC”]
Mark,

Lunch tomorrow sounds great! Let’s keep it simple and get a pepperoni pizza.

> On Fri, Apr 26, 2013 at 9:25 AM, Mark wrote:

> Hey John, I had some questions I wanted to ask you:

> 1. Do you want to go out to lunch with me tomorrow?
> 2. What’s your favorite type of pizza?
> 3. You’re paying this time, right?
[/note]

Notice how John conveniently forgot to answer question #3?

The more efficient way is to answer each question right below the question which looks something like this:

[note color=”#FFFFCC”]
Mark,

See my answers below…

> On Fri, Apr 26, 2013 at 9:25 AM, Mark wrote:

> Hey John, I had some questions I wanted to ask you:

> 1. Do you want to go out to lunch with me tomorrow?

Lunch tomorrow sounds great!

> 2. What’s your favorite type of pizza?

Let’s keep it simple and get a pepperoni pizza.

> 3. You’re paying this time, right?

You bet! You paid last time so it’s my turn.
[/note]

This is actually easier to do than you might think. When you click “reply” on an email, the original message is usually included below what you are typing. What most people don’t know is that the original email is just pasted into the email along with your response window, meaning you can move your cursor anywhere you want in the original email to edit your email message.

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So to add your answer to question #1, place your cursor at the end of the first question and hit Enter a few times on your keyboard. This will give you some space to enter your response directly below question #1. Rinse and repeat for questions #2 and #3.

Some people will add a little flair to their reply to make it stand out even more by putting their inline reply in a bold typeface (like I did in the example above) or in a color that stands out, like red. Your response depends on your email software and whether you’re replying from desktop or a mobile device. You’ll need to look for a style toolbar that lets you do this. If you can’t see it, you might not have it enabled and will have to search your email settings to enable it.

Once it is enabled, you can highlight your answer to each question with your mouse and then click the appropriate style button on the toolbar (ex: the bold button) to change the style of your email reply.

Armed with this knowledge, never again will an email question go unanswered. Ok, I can dream, can’t I?

Do you have a question for Mr. Noobie®? Submit your question here.

Editors note – this article has been updated on April 10th, 2018 for accuracy and relevancy.

Email reply etiquette: How do you reply inline to someone’s email? [ASK MR. NOOBIE]
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2 Comments

  1. Nadine

    Thank you for your validation of the fact that inline is probably the easiest and most efficient way to reply to an email, and for your suggestion that boldfacing the replies or using a different color for them might help to make the replies stand out. I had been using inline replies for many years, since I first started using email back in the days of Prodigy and GEnie. But recently I’ve had correspondents complain that my inline replies made them have to read all the way through both their letters and mine for them to make sense.

    I’ve often felt like telling them that if reading through their own letters was such an onerous task, then maybe their letters are too long. But rather than losing all of my friends that way I began typing my entire replies at the beginning of my letters. Now I’m going to go back to replying inline, which is much easier, and I’ll either boldface the replies or use a different color.

    Once again your newsletter has contained something that will make my life easier and more pleasant. And once again, I thank you for doing it.

    Nadine

  2. Patric Welch

    Nadine, thank you for your kind words. I loved your line, “if reading through their own letters was such an onerous task, then maybe their letters are too long”. I couldn’t agree more!

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