Laura Creighton wrote:

> A lot of the time, what you really want is to get rid of all 
> of the quoted material altogether.  A bit of usenet history 
> is of interest here.  In the very old days, we didn't have a 
> way to quote any mail at all.  We didn't have threads, either.
> This happened often enough that several of us decided that it 
> would be a good idea to put quoting into the mail and news 
> readers we were using at the time.  And I am one of the 
> people who did so.  And it made certain things infinitely 
> more convenient.
> This sort of point-by-point dressing down really had only one 
> counterpart in face-to-face communication -- where a Superior 
> dresses down a Subordinate, in front of an audience.  The 
> main purpose of such things has nothing to do with the 
> Subordinate that got the dressing down, but everything to do 
> with maintaining the Superior's authority and making the 
> audience quiver in their boots (while thanking God that they 
> weren't getting the chewing out).
> So, unsurprisingly, people who had made tiny errors in 
> understanding or interpretation flipped right out at what 
> they perceived as bucket-loads of nitpicking contempt hurled 
> at them for no particularly good reason, by a person whose 
> authority they didn't recognise.  It was also widely 
> condemned as a way to impose a hierarchical structure on 
> something that had hitherto been working in a rather flat, 
> equalitarian manner.  And it had a chilling effect on whether 
> people who were young, new and trying to learn things were 
> willing to post their current thoughts on a matter.

Thanks for that bit of reply style history! I've only been using email since 
quoting became a common feature, so I never saw this before and after effect. 
Have you seen a reduction in this "dressing down" style of reply since 
top-posting became common?

Peter Shute
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