How to Manage and Control Email Threads

Weave your way through managing and controlling email threads

What to Know

  • iOS: Go to Settings > Mail. Under Threading, toggle the settings to your preferences. (See below for explanations of the options.)
  • Android: In Gmail, select three-dot icon and go to Settings > General settings. Tick Conversation View to group emails with the same topic.
  • Windows: Go to Mail > Settings > Options. Toggle Show messages arranged by conversations to turn threading on or off.

A thread of email messages on a cellphone works the same way as it does on a web or desktop email application. In most cases, grouping emails into a thread is the default behavior, but you can usually edit your email preferences if you would rather view your messages individually. In this guide, we show you how to manage threads on iOS, Android, and Windows Mobile devices.

Email Threading on an iOS Device

The Apple iOS built-in Mail application has several settings controlling email threading. Email threading is turned on by default.

  1. Go to Settings, and select Mail.

  2. Scroll down to Threading.

  3. You have the following options to choose from:

    • Organize by Thread: This setting controls whether threading is used at all in emails. Toggle this off to turn off threading completely. The default is "on" which displays a green icon.
    • Collapse Read Messages: This enables collapsing messages that you've already read.
    • Most Recent Message on Top: This is off by default, but it seems like a good option to turn on. If Mail does not display the most recent message at the top, you'll need to scroll through potentially multiple messages to find the most recent one.
    • Complete Threads: This setting groups email messages into threads even if they originate from another mailbox.
    Threading settings in iOS
  4. Toggle on any or all of the options to enable.

A business manager working on a cellphone.
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Email Threading on Gmail on an Android Device

As of Android 5.0 Lollipop, Android devices use Gmail as the default email application, as opposed to the previous Android application called simply Email. Email threading (called the conversation view) is turned on by default, but if it isn't follow the below steps to enable it:

  1. Open Gmail and click the three-line icon to the left in the Inbox.

  2. Scroll down past all your folders and select Settings.

  3. Select General settings.

  4. Select the checkbox next to Conversation View.

    Turning on Conversation View on an Android phone
  5. Return to your email to view your threaded email conversations.

Email Threading on Windows Mobile Devices

On Windows mobile devices and phones, email threading—also called the conversation view—is turned on by default. To control these settings:

  1. Open the Mail app and tap Settings (the gear icon or 3 dots) on the bottom left.

  2. Select Options from the context right pane that displays.

  3. Use the toggle Show messages arranged by conversations to turn this option off or on.

This setting can be controlled for each email account you set up in the Mail app.

Email Thread Etiquette

Here are a few pointers when engaging in an email thread, especially if it includes multiple users.

  • Stay on topic, i.e. do not deviate from the original topic.
  • Strip unnecessary images (such as business logos or ads.) from emails that are forwarded, to avoid clogging recipients' inboxes with fluff.
  • Copy someone on a reply or forward if it mentions his name. This point can create a lot of hard feelings and confusion, so consider this carefully. Obviously, if the email thread is of a private nature, you will know if it is appropriate to copy someone. But generally, when you bring someone new into an existing thread, it is because a new issue that involves him has surfaced.
  • Alert existing recipients if you do add a new user to a thread. This is a simple courtesy so that all recipients know immediately who is part of the discussion.
  • Clarify the points you are discussing, especially if they relate to an earlier email buried deep into the thread.
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