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Why Tofu Mails suck

If you reply to an email, you often include part of the referenced mail in your mail. This is a good way to keep the thread of mails together.

However, for some reason I cannot begin to understand, some people don't limit the quoted mail to the actual content they refer to, but just quote the whole mail, including transport information, salutation, footer, signature, hook, line and sinker. This is sometimes called Tofu in Germany, 'Text oben, Fullquoting unten' (Text on top, full quoting below).

This is bad for several reasons:

  • Texts are read from top to bottom. Tofu mails do not force the reader to read the mail from bottom to top (that would be too easy), but to change reading directions twice for each mail quoted in this way.
  • Since most of the quoted mail is useless in this context, you waste (in contrast to use) bandwith. This may not matter much to you, but a lot of people pay their access by the hour or by the byte.
  • Likewise, you are wasting the recipient's time, because the reader needs to scan every line (however briefly) to see whether it contains actual content or is just dead weight.
  • Tofu mails fail at their presumed purpose. The context can be brought much nearer to the answer by using the traditional way of quoting. This is what many users do.
    In addition, there are many fine mailers out there which use the mail headers described in RFC822 (and subsequently in RFC2822) to connect mails without resorting to quotes. This works by including a reference header in the new mail which points to the old mail. If your mailer does not support this, drop it.
  • Some Tofu include another's address by including a header fragment from another person's mail in the body of your mail. This might make this address available in web archives of mailing lists but circumvent the despam routines of the archive software.

In conclusion, Tofu mails are a burden to the network and its users. Don't use them.

See also