How to Quote Original Messages in Email Replies

Help your email recipients follow a long thread

What to Know

  • The procedure for quoting original email messages in replies and forwards varies greatly between email services.
  • Some services like iOS Mail allow users to highlight text and simply click Reply or Forward to quote that selection.
  • Some services like Gmail automatically quote the entire email. You'll need to manually edit to quote specific lines from the message.

Long email threads in which each response quotes the entirety of the previous or original message are difficult to follow. On the other hand, an email that refers to a previous message without a clue as to what it concerned wastes time as you try to remember the sender's original point. When you reply to an email message, you should quote from the message you received, but only as much as is necessary to establish the context.

A screenshot of a message in Gmail with the Quote Text button highlighted

How to Quote an Email in Your Reply

Depending on your email provider or app, you might be able to highlight the portion of the email you want to quote before you click or tap the Reply or Forward button. The reply email field opens with the highlighted quote already positioned in the body of the email. Just add your response and send it on its way. MacOS and iOS Mail work this way.

No two email programs use the exact same reply procedure.

Some email programs, including Yahoo Mail and Gmail, don't allow you to simply highlight a portion to quote in your reply. You have to quote the entire length of the text from the email and then manually delete the portions you don't want from your reply.

In some cases, you can copy the portion of the email that you want to quote and select Paste as quote or similar, if your email program supports this feature (some do, some don't). In almost all cases, the quoted information is indented to make it easy to recognize. In some email programs, the quoted material appears in a different color.

How to Work With a Quote in Your Email

Email etiquette generally follows a certain order with regard to sections of a message. Begin your email with a salutation and an introductory comment. Next comes the quoted material. Your response to the quote then appears beneath it.

If you're replying to more than one point, paste one portion of the quote on a line and then respond to that portion only on the following line. Next, paste another portion of the quoted email and respond to that portion on the following line. Repeat this pattern if you have more quotes and comments to make in your reply or forwarded message. This mimics the natural flow of conversation and makes following a thread easier for email recipients.

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