What’s an Email Train?

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Email trains, with a large number of previous responses, are bad netiquette. To avoid them, delete unnecessary parts, quote important parts, and reply directly to the sender. Avoid filling inboxes with unnecessary emails and use names to comment on multiple posts. Back-and-forth discussions should not include unnecessary emails.

One of the things you should avoid when sending emails is creating what is called an email train. You’ve probably seen these before if you’re not that new to networking or email communications. These are letters in which there is a huge number of previous responses at the end of them. If a number of people on a listserve have discussed a topic and failed to eliminate replies from other contributors, an email train can stretch to pages of text.

Creating a train of emails is not considered good netiquette or email etiquette. There are a few ways to avoid this. First, when you hit the reply button in many email programs, you’ll usually have all the emails you’re replying to quoted directly below where you type. You can delete it completely to avoid a train of emails.

Many people want to refer to specific parts of someone else’s letter. Instead of leaving an entire email in place, cut out any details that aren’t needed, especially if the train of emails has multiple responses attached. Simply quote the important parts of the text you want to discuss and get rid of anything you don’t need. You may want to make sure, particularly when the email is intended for a discussion group or listserve, that you indicate who made the post you wish to comment on.

Listserves can be quite tricky anyway because you might want to send a personal comment to someone rather than a comment to the entire list. In many listserves you have the possibility to reply directly to the sender. If you get listserve per digest, this option might be harder to access. Even if you can’t reply to one person, you should make sure you aren’t filling up the inboxes of others with a train of emails that contain an entire summary of the day.

Another thing you can do if you want to comment on multiple people’s posts is to simply use their name or pseudonym and say a few words directly to them: e.g. “Jan, I really liked the way you described parenting young children, and Bill, I think you’re right that dads should spend more time with young children.” This allows you to comment to an entire group without attached email trains.
Sometimes an email train is created between two people having a back-and-forth discussion via email. This may or may not be considered a violation of netiquette, but it can get awfully messy. In most cases the previous emails will be mentioned below the new text you write, but there is no need to keep sending them back and forth if they are not needed in some way. Even in informal situations between two friends, a correspondent might be grateful if you unsubscribe before sending your next reply.

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