When I hit "reply" to an email message, unless I edit it out, the message I am replying to is contained in the new message. After some back and forth, a long "tail" accumulates. I am preparing an archive of email correspondence. I need to explain that I removed signatures and "tails." I don't know how to explain this thing I call a "tail." In my draft I am calling it "prior messages," which doesn't seem terribly clear. Is there a term for this? Or can you help me make one up that will be self-explanatory?

The enclosed archive of email correspondence includes all messages and headers but no prior messages or signatures.

  • 4
    Is it a chain? Possibly thread?
    – Mari-Lou A
    Dec 17, 2016 at 21:00
  • @Mari-LouA - Yes, that’s what I’d call it.
    – Jim
    Dec 17, 2016 at 21:04
  • 1
    Some messaging systems call these conversations. Dec 17, 2016 at 21:05
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    It’s not a thread—the thread consists of all the individual e-mails that make up the entire conversation, including the one currently being archived. The ‘tail’ is included in each and every e-mail and consists of a reverse-order quoting of all previous messages in the fork of the thread that the current e-mail is located in. You might get away with calling it something like nested quotes. Dec 17, 2016 at 22:25
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    @JanusBahsJacquet - But wouldn’t find anything wrong with an an email that said, “Don’t bother reading all the previous emails, the whole [chain, thread] is included here.” Granted, that’s more of a semantic interpretation...
    – Jim
    Dec 17, 2016 at 22:38

4 Answers 4


The enclosed archive of email correspondence includes all messages and headers, though quoted text from previous messages has been deleted for brevity.

This phrase, in bold font above, is copied from https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Posting_style

When a message is replied to in e-mail, Internet forums, or Usenet, the original can often be included, or "quoted", in a variety of different posting styles.

The main options are interleaved posting (also called inline replying, in which the different parts of the reply follow the relevant parts of the original post), bottom-posting (in which the reply follows the quote) or top-posting (in which the reply precedes the quoted original message). For each of those options, there is also the issue of whether trimming of the original text is allowed, required or preferred.
Quoted text from previous messages is usually distinguished in some way from the new (reply) text. [...]

On a side note, trimming such text seems very error prone, especially if there have been interleaved or bottom replies. It could also be misleading if emails are presented out of context and order.

  • 1
    Regarding your last paragraph -- all the messages, without exception, were top-posted, and I used a thunderbird tool called ImportExportTools to make the archive of all the messages in a folder (which was created with a "label" in gmail). This tool automatically sorts the messages by date. Your comment has given me the idea of adding to my explanation the fact that all the messages were top-posted. (I already noted that the archive contains a complete set -- although your last paragraph is giving me the idea to put more emphasis on that.) Dec 18, 2016 at 16:54
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    I like the phrase in bold that you found, and I also like the verb trim. Dec 18, 2016 at 16:55

I use email exchange to describe the newest message plus the long tail that has accumulated. If you apply that to your example, you could say:

The enclosed archive of email correspondence includes only the newest messages and headers from each email exchange.


The enclosed archive of email exchanges includes only the newest messages and headers from each email exchange.

  • It's really clear. I'll use this as a back-up. I'd prefer to say what I'm omitting (or not including), if possible. Dec 18, 2016 at 6:43

As Janus mentions in his comment, the tail you refer to is the result of the e-mail client automatically quoting what you're replying to. Therefore, I think the noun you're looking for quotations.

This is how I'd write your sentence:

The enclosed archive of email correspondence includes all messages and headers, with automatic quotations and overly long signatures removed for the sake of clarity and brevity.

The automatic bit I have added because I assume you haven't deleted any in-line quotations that some people use when addressing multiple points discussed in previous e-mails.

  • 1
    I won't be able to use it because in the same paragraph I talk about quotations from something else, so it would be confusing. But I bet someone will be able to use this. Dec 18, 2016 at 6:44

The enclosed archive contains all the email messages I sent to or received from XX. Signatures and redundant quotes have been omitted for readability.

"Redundant quotes" is redundant, I know, but I thought it would make things clearer.

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