Do you use indentation for readability?

Last updated by Brady Stroud [SSW] 10 days ago.See history

Written communication can easily cause misunderstandings. Help the reader understand your message better by:

  • Using “>” and indentation when quoting the text from others, like the original email you are replying to, or a web page, etc.
  • Your new text should be kept to the left
  • Add numbers if the sender didn't and it is appropriate

This way you won't forget any questions in the original email.

Note: You do not need to use ">" and indentation, when you are replying to the task that is very clear, because in this case extra text reduces clarity.

Figure: Bad example - There's too much information with no reasonable order

Figure: Bad example - Even with order, without spacing the text becomes cramped and hard to read.

Figure: Good example - You can clearly see the context of each part of the reply

Tip #1: When using Outlook, the raw “>” character may be automatically formatted to a “>” bullet point. This change is a problem because it may change to a normal bullet point after being sent. To prevent this issue, press Control+Z to turn it back into the raw “>” character.

Tip #2: For those using mobile devices the indentation function is not available, try instead using 3 spaces to indent manually.

Tip #3: Note the extra line break after each reply... this helps group each question with it's answer.

Tip #4: Some people also use a different text color in their reply, but this is generally overkill


When using Markdown (usually on GitHub), use a ">" symbol to achieve a similar result.

markdown indentation editor
Figure: Indenting tasks in Markdown

markdown indentation preview
Figure: How it looks

You can find more info about GitHub Markdown syntax at Basic writing and formatting syntax.

Video: Top 10+ Rules to Better Email Communication with Ulysses Maclaren

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