How to Read Emails in Threads With iPhone Mail

Thread your email conversations for a cleaner inbox

E-mail application on iPhone 6S Screen
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One message here, another down there, and who knows how many in between: following an email conversation can be difficult in an inbox arranged by message arrival time. Fortunately, email threading is turned on by default on the iPhone to simplify following a discussion. Email threads are groups of related messages. Each thread includes an original email, all the responses to it, and forwards of it, all arranged in chronological order.

If you bought your iPhone secondhand, the previous owner might have turned off the threading setting, so you see a long list of emails that are sorted by the date and time they arrived. If this appears to be the case, the solution is to turn on the threading features on your phone.

Instructions in this article apply to iOS 12, iOS 11, and iOS 10.

How to Turn On Threading in iPhone Mail

To have iPhone Mail display your email in threads of related messages:

  1. Tap the Settings app on the iPhone home screen.

  2. Select Mail.

  3. Scroll down to the Threading section and move the slider next to Organize by Thread to the On/green position.

    The threading settings on an iPhone

In the Mail app's message list, you treat a thread like an individual email for deletion, flagging, or filing. Your action applies to all messages in the conversation.

How to Turn Off Threading in Mail

If it turns out that threaded email conversations aren't your thing, turn them off by reversing the process. Return to the Threading section of the Mail preferences and move the slider next to Organize by Thread to the Off/white position.

Additional Threading Settings

Additional options in the Threading section include:

  • Collapse Read Messages: New in iOS 11, Collapse Read Messages is enabled by default. When it is enabled, all the messages that you've already read in a thread are collapsed, which makes it easy to see which messages are new when you open a thread.
  • Most Recent Message on Top: This setting positions the most recent message at the top of the thread rather than the oldest message, which was the default when iOS 10 was released.
  • Complete Threads: Shows every message in a thread, including those that you have moved to different mailboxes.

Tips for Participating in Threads

Threads can become long and involved, so it is important that you stay on topic. If you want to talk about something else, send a different email, and it can morph into a thread of its own.

When you forward a thread, simplify it by stripping out any unnecessary images, like company logos.

Restate your point or the initial purpose of the thread if the original email is buried deep in the thread.

When you add someone to an existing thread, notify everybody to avoid any embarrassing comments about that person appearing.