Respond inline to messages

This article is based on information from the article Do you avoid using inline when replying to an email? Published by SSW Enterprise Software Development a company I used to work for.

How often have you had to look at a reply to an email or comment in a Jira task and scroll through a long trail of messages to gain context.

By replying inline, it is easier for the reader to see precisely what you are responding to without having to scroll through long message lists and diagnose the subject they are replying to.

Inline replies facilitate effective communication by directly addressing individual points, tasks, or questions within the message body.

Replying inline is particularly handy when responding to actionable tasks.

 

Guidelines:

  • When responding to a message containing multiple tasks or questions, address each item individually for clarity.
  • Indent the original message, task numbers or bullet points to differentiate between each point for better readability.

 

Let’s start by looking at a bad example of a reply to a message, followed by a good example.

In the following example, Matt, a web designer, responds to changes that stakeholders have asked him to make to a particular design.

❌ Bad example

Hi Jo,

I’ve updated the links’ colours and added a map. As you requested in your previous email, please check the staging link with the changes I’ve made.
Thanking you,
Matt

Email:Bad Example of replying inline

Even though this email is short, the reader is forced to scroll to the original message to get further context.

People often need context as they often respond to many messages on various channels, like email, Teams or Jira, and it is tough to remember all the messages they have sent.

Let’s look at improving this message by replying in-line.

✅ Good examples

Hi Jo,

> I am very happy with the designs you’ve presented to me. Option b is what we like the best. But I would like a few minor changes.

I am glad you like option b. Almost everyone in the office liked option 2, too.

> 1. Can you make the title colour dark purple?

The title is now dark purple

> 2. Can you include a map of Melbourne City somewhere?

Sorry, I am not sure if it can be done.

> 3. Can you set up a link to the Contact Us page with the CTA text “Talk to us now” right at the bottom of the text?

There is now a CTA link on the page.

 

Thanks,

Matt

Email: ✅ Good example of replying inline

Now we can see, the responses to tasks are in line, so the reader is able to clearly see the original indented message that they have posted, followed by a message posted by the reader. Note the use of the “Greater than symbol” just before the original message.

This comes in handy when responding to specific tasks, and more importantly, the recipient will love you as they will not need to needlessly scroll down a long communication chain.

In our next standard on “Repling to tasks with a status,” where we will explore how to mark our replies to tasks clearer with a task status.