Why is Bottom-posting better than Top-posting
By A. Smit and
H.W. de Haan
Top-posting: Writing the message above the original text, when one
replies to an email or a post in a newsgroup.
Bottom-posting: The opposite of top-posting. Now the new message is
placed below the original text.
We are fanatic Usenet-readers. As a result we are often annoyed by
people who keep top-posting. This is considered as not good 'Net
etiquette'. The majority of Usenet-users prefer bottom-posting.
In addition to bottom-posting, it is customary to
leave out non-relevant parts of the message with regard to the reply,
and to put the reply directly beneath the quoted relevant parts. If you want to
know more about writing new posts. Check out this site:
Below you can find our arguments why bottom-posting is better than
We can conclude that there are no good reasons we know of for
top-posting. The most top-posts originate from the minimal work people spend
on making posts. We think that one should be proud of one's post, that is
it contains relevant content, well-formed sentences and no irrelevant
'bullsh*t', before uploading to your newsserver. If the majority of
the group will adhere to this convention, the group will be nicer,
tidier and easier to read.
- Because it is proper Usenet Etiquette. Check out the following URL:
http://www.faqs.org/rfcs/rfc1855.html . It is a little outdated
but still has a lot of valid points. Let us quote something from this
If you are sending a reply to a message or a posting be sure you
summarize the original at the top of the message, or include just
enough text of the original to give a context. This will make
sure readers understand when they start to read your response.
Since NetNews, especially, is proliferated by distributing the
postings from one host to another, it is possible to see a
response to a message before seeing the original. Giving context
helps everyone. But do not include the entire original!
- We use a good news reader like Forte Agent. Good newsreaders like Agent
put the signature by default at the end of the post, which is the Usenet
convention. Microsoft Outlook Express however has some serious bugs. Let
us quote someone we know:
"The day Microsoft makes something that doesn't suck is probably
the day they start making vacuum cleaners." -Ernst Jan Plugge
We are programmers ourselves, and we know it is very easy to implement
to put a signature at the end of the post instead of putting it directly
above the post you are replying to and can not change the
Forte Agent has as a feature that reply to a post it will remove the
signature (recognizable by '-- ', note the extra space) and everything
below it, so it will remove a part of the original message. This is good
Usenet practice so Agent is not faulty. Outlook Express on the other hand
is faulty, check
this bugreport regarding the Usenet signature delimiter.
If you want to try Agent, you can get it here.
- Top-posting makes posts incomprehensible. Firstly: In normal
conversations, one does not answer to something that has not yet been
said. So it is unclear to reply to the top, whilst the original message
is at the bottom. Secondly: In western society a book is normally read
from top to bottom. Top-posting forces one to stray from this convention:
Reading some at the top, skipping to the bottom to read the question, and
going back to the top to continue. This annoyance increases even more
than linear with the number of top-posts in the message. If someone
replies to a thread and you forgot what the thread was all about, or that
thread was incomplete for some reasons, it will be quite tiresome to
rapidly understand what the thread was all about, due to bad posting and
irrelevant text which has not been removed.
- To prevent hideously long posts with a minimal account of new text, it is
good Usenet practice to remove the non-relevant parts and optionally
summarize the relevant parts of the original post, with regard to one's
reply. Top-posting inevitably leads to long posts, because most
top-posters leave the original message intact. All these long posts not
only clutter up discussions, but they also clutter up the server space.
- Top-posting makes it hard for bottom-posters to reply to the relevant
parts: it not possible to answer within the original message.
Bottom-posting does not make top-posting any harder.
- Some people will argue that quoting looks bad due line wrapping. This
can simply be dealt with by dropping Outlook Express as a start, and
using only linewidths of 65 - 70 characters. Otherwise one has do it
manually, and that can be tiresome.
- A reason given by stubborn top-posters: they don't like to scroll to read
the new message. We like to disagree here, because we always
have to scroll down to see the original message and after that to
scroll back up, just to see to what they are replying to. As a result
you have to scroll twice as much when reading a top-poster's message.
As a counterargument they say (believe us they do): "You can check the
previous message in the discussion". This is even more tiresome than
scrolling and with the unreliable nature of Usenet (and even email
is inevitably unreliable), the previous message in the discussion can
be simply unavailable.
- Some newsgroups have strict conventions concerning posting in their
charter. As an example
we can tell you that in most Dutch newsgroups, you will be warned,
killfiled or maybe even flamed, if you fail to follow Usenet conventions
or if you do not quote according to the quoting guidelines. In general:
it is better to practice the guidelines, if one does not want to get
flamed in a newsgroup one just subscribed to.
As a final remark we want to bring non-quoting into
mind. This means that the original content of an email or Usenet post
is completely removed. It makes it very hard for a reader to find out
to what and whom one is replying. This phenomenon can be partly
attributed to wrong settings of news- and email-clients, and partly to
people who want to start with clean replies.