We use Outlook for our email. My daughter uses Gmail where she lives.
She says every time she receives an e-mail reply from me there is a vertical line down the left side of it, and if she “removes format” (or something like that), the line goes away, but then she then gets all those “carrot” signs and has to go in and remove those!
Yet, when she sends an e-mail to me, it looks fine. I don’t think I ever remember seeing that vertical line or carrots from her e-mails.
I have received e-mail from others that look like that though.
What’s the story on this! How and why does this happen to some and not others?
In a word: reply. You said it yourself.
What you’re seeing is very common among email programs. It’s an indicator that you’re replying to a message.
It’s useful. Even better, it’s configurable.
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Let’s say I send you a message:
Subject: Example Email
Thanks for visiting https://askleo.com!
All well and good. Now, let’s have you reply to it:
Subject: Re: Example Email
> Thanks for visiting https://askleo.com!
You’re very welcome, Leo! I enjoyed the site.
The email program included your original message as part of my reply, but prefixed every line with “> ” to set it apart from any new message that you would presumably add at the bottom.
In “Rich Text” or HTML format (or in some mail programs, in all cases), it might be displayed as a vertical bar instead:
Subject: Re: Example Email
You’re very welcome Leo! I enjoyed the site.
Most people find that useful as conversations get long and we start to forget who said what along the way. Since this happens on each reply, it’s not uncommon to see conversations with the “>” nested deeply, or in several sections.
For example, if I’m having a lengthy conversation with someone, I might set up my reply in several parts:
> their original email on a topic
My reply to that specific topic
> their original email on a separate topic or sub-topic
My reply to that separate topic or sub-topic
> their original email continues
My reply to this continuation.
This helps us both keep track of what parts of the message I’m replying to.
But what if you don’t want any of that?
Since you’re using Outlook, I’ll show you there, but other email programs have similar settings.
In Outlook, click on the File menu and then on Options on the left-hand side.
In the resulting “Outlook Options” dialog box, click on the Mail item on the left.
In the pane on the right, then, scroll down to find “Replies and forwards“.
Note the two items “When replying to a message” and “When forwarding a message”. These control how Outlook handles this exact situation for both replies and forwards.
The options include:
- Do not include original message: the text of the message you’re replying to is not included when you reply — you’ll start with a blank message body.
- Attach original message: the original message to which you are replying is included as an attachment with your reply, typically in “.eml” format. When the recipient receives your reply, they can open the attachment to see the original message. (Exactly how will depend on what email program or interface they are using.)
- Include original message text: the body of the message you’re replying to is placed in your reply without modification. Usually you start typing below it.
- Include and indent original message text: Like the previous option, except that the original message text is indented, so it’s more obvious where it ends and where your reply to it begins.
- Prefix each line of the original message: Like the previous option, but instead of indenting, each line of the original message is prefixed with either vertical bars, if your message is in HTML format, or a character, if your message is in plain text. In most cases today, email is in HTML format.
I’m guessing you have the last one set.
From your description, you probably want to turn the whole thing off with “Do not include original message”.
My personal recommendation, however, is to use “Prefix each line of the original message”. Including the original really helps people remember what the conversation is about, and setting it apart with a prefix of some sort — be it a vertical bar or the “>” character — keeps it clear which part is the original message and which part is your reply.
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