Latest change: Mon Oct 13 16:45:00 CEST 2003

Attribution FAQ - "NAME+ADDRESS"

Definition: The "attribution" is the text that precedes quoted text which has been included in responses (followups and replies).

An attribution should include both the name and address so it is possible to refer to the correct person. This page is simply pointing out this simple and useful fact.

Please point others at this page so they might configure their user agent (mailer/newsreader) properly. Thankyou!

This page is available at these addresses: [Got to Attribute!] [Learn to Attribute!] [Remember to Attribute!]


Name+Adress! | Configuration | Rationale | NoNos

BlackList of Silly Attribution Quotes:
| CrossPoint | Firte Free Agent | Outlook Express | slrn | Pseudo-Funny | VM


Here is a short kind of attribution:

        * FirstName LastName <Address>:
        > quoted text  quoted text  quoted text
        > quoted text  quoted text  quoted text
        > quoted text  quoted text  quoted text
This attribution contains the name and the address. No more, no less.

If the name+address is short then there might be enough space to add the date and time in a short form, too:

        * FirstName LastName <Address> [yymmdd hh:mm]:
        > quoted text  quoted text  quoted text
        > quoted text  quoted text  quoted text
        > quoted text  quoted text  quoted text
Remember: *One* line suffices for the attribution!


Here is how you can set up your program or attributing the sender with name+address;

program:   mutt
setupfile: $HOME/.muttrc
command:   set attribution="* %n <%a> [%(%y%m%d %H:%M)]:"

program:   slrn
setupfile: $HOME/.slrnrc
command:   set followup_string  "* %r <%f>:"
           set    reply_string  "* %r <%f> [%n]:"
           (the "%n" cites the newsgroup name. it's nice
            to see the newsgroup name in email replies.)

program:   TheBat
setupfile: ...

program:   VM (Emacs)
setupfile: $HOME/.vm
command:   (setq vm-included-text-attribution-format
                '"* %F <%f> [%d/%M/%y %H]:\n")

But which time format is the best?


Here are the reasons for using this kind of attribution:

Attribution Prefix "* "
I use this prefix as it usually is unique within messages (combines with the ':' at the end) and it thus allows to automatically find the attribution. This is similiar to the concept of the "signature dashes".
Another nice effect is that it moves the name+address right above the quoted text. Please note that quoted text is indented with the string "> " ("greater-than" angle and space).
I also use some mappings which allow me to copy the name+address from the attribution line
"Why don't you copy the name+address from the header?"
Two reasons: (1) The name might be missing in the header. However, if I have defined an alias for the address I reply to then my mailer is smart enough to add the corresponding name to the attribution. (2) The name+address might already have changed due to an existing Reply-To redirection.

Name <Address>
I always attribute to the sender's name, of course. I quote the address, too, as this can gives vital additional information.
Many people have several addresses, private and work addresses, and some addresses are project related. Often, the address gives a context to the message.
And then there are people with the same name who only differ by their address. Yes, it does happen.
The address is set in angle brackets as this combination can be used in the header. I sometimes copy and paste "Name <Address>" into my alias file or into one of the address headers to send copies.

Date+Time "[yymmdd hh:mm]:"
This string indicates the date and time of the message that I reply to.
The information about the preceding ("parent") article includes the date+time in the "Date:" header, so there should be no need to duplicate this information. My newsreader (slrn) has a command that can fetch the previous article from the newsserver, but newsgroups with much traffic only have a short expiry time, so after a week the parent article might already be gone. Also, many people do not have such a nice newsreader, and even when they do I find that many users do not know about this command.
So including this information is "nice", eg when you print a message. (Some mailers drop the header completely in printouts, so you cannot see any references at all.) Anyway, citing the date+time needs to be short. A full duplicate of the Date: header is way too long.
The seconds usually are not that important, of course. This is why I do not include them in my attribution. So the shortest format that is still readable is "yymmdd hh:mm", eg "990406 12:07" for "1999 April 6th 12:07". (I hope you'll agree.) However, the format yymmdd can be misinterpreted as yyddmm (that is "day before month"), so the date in the previous example might also be for the fourth of June. So, if you want to make sure that the date is interpreted correctly then you should follow the standard of "ISO 8601":
        2000-04-06 12:07:00
The colon at the end of the string just indicates that "this person said". Many people are familiar with this when they read books which contain direct speech. So, actually both the asterisk at the beginning and the colon at the end of the line make it easy to identify the attribution line in my messages.
NOTE: The additional date+time might interfere with the NAME+ADDRESS as it might make it too long for a standard width of 80 characters per line. In that case I usually drop the date+time info, of course:
* Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger :
Quite often, however (as with the previous example), the NAME+ADDRESS is long because the name is actually a part of the address. In this case we might as well drop the redundant NAME and simply cite the ADDRESS which also gives some space for date+time again:
* [510726 12:00]:
> waaahhh!
I have yet to see a *regular* name and normal address that does not fit into an 80 char line, though. Examples, anyone?

NoNos - Why is there no X in your attribution?

Here is the reasons why I did not include any of the following in my attribution:

Message-ID: (aka )MID
MIDs belong into the header! Period.
Many user agents (read: "mailers" and "newsreaders") look at the header to reconstructs the "threads"; they almost never look at the body for references. Therefore, MIDs belong into the header - not into the body.
MIDs would make the attribution line much longer.
MIDs from "pine" are awfully long.
MIDs of (some) Emacs setups are even longer!
Hardly any person gets a kick out of reading MIDs. ;-)

Additional Explanatory Text
Whatever text you add in any language - it does not make sense to you it when sending a message to people who do not understand the language. This is especially true with posts to Usenet when you have defined a text in, say, German, and you are posting to a group which uses English as its main language (eg comp.editors).
        Message-ID: <Pco46.45910$>
        En Sven Guckes schreef het volgende:
Now, I can guess what it says - but it sure looks strange when the attribution is in Dutch and the text in the body of the message is written in English.

The BlackList of Silly Attribution Quotations

I find weird attribution lines especially in German newsgroups (de.*). Somehow many folks are trying to be funny with their attribution line rather than giving a clear attribution.

I used to remove those "introductory novels" - but now I'll just present some of them here. "enjoy!"

If you find any of your own silly attribution texts here then do not bother asking me to remove it. After all, some good bad examples are required for the other users out there. Hope you understand. ;-)

BAD Attribution - AOL

X-Mailer: AOL 5.0 for Windows sub 120

In einer eMail vom 08.11.01 03:56:24
(MEZ) Mitteleuropäische Zeit schreibt
German text, full date with *descriptive* text of the time zone, address - but no name.

BAD Attribution - CrossPoint

Message-ID: <>
X-Newsreader: CrossPoint [XP2] v3.30.019 Beta DOS/16 R/C17726, via NNTP

Wat hat (Wieland Weiß) in
"HTTP-Proxy und Komma: Mail-Service, Erreichbarkeit" jesagt ?

BAD Attribution - Forte Free Agent

Just WTF is it with those posts from Forte*Agent? Does this program solicit silly attributions?

The default for the attribution with FFA seems to be "On %Date%, %From% wrote:" which obviously includes *full copies* of the respective header lines (talk about overkill).

Maybe that's why even the most silly attributions seem "short" compared to the default. *sigh*

  • "he *chiselt* onto the board" - oh, my!
    From: André° R. Mastel <>
    Newsgroup: de.alt.rec.ascii-art
    Subject: Re: -.-;-:-(-0-@
    Date: Thu, 04 Jan 2001 11:06:23 +0100
    Message-ID: <>
    X-Newsreader: Forte Agent 1.8/32.548
    Am Thu, 04 Jan 2001 07:27:28 +0100, meisselte Jens Reißenweber in
    <> ins Brett:
  • "My attribution is sooooo funny.." NOT!
    From: ****************** (***** *********)
    Newsgroups: de.alt.rec.ascii-art
    Subject: Re: Lodoss
    Date: Wed, 22 Nov 2000 20:59:45 GMT
    Organization: Hotel Engelbracht
    Message-ID: <>
    X-Posting-Agent: Hamster/
    X-Newsreader: Forte Free Agent 1.21/32.243
    Als Andreas Brosche in die Tasten hub, entstanden dabei folgende
    Worte, die in die Weiten des U-Nets entlassen wurden:
  • Even more embarassing: *Typos* in the attribution line:
    From: ****************** (***** *********)
    Newsgroups: de.alt.rec.ascii-art
    Subject: Re: Test
    Date: Sat, 18 Nov 2000 11:35:02 GMT
    Organization: Hotel Engelbracht
    Message-ID: <>
    X-Posting-Agent: Hamster/
    X-Newsreader: Forte Free Agent 1.21/32.243
    Und André° R. Mastel maltretierte sein Keyboard mit folgenden Worten
    die er uns nicht vorenthalten wollte:
    The group rec.ascii-art was known for "funny" things, and de.alt.rec.ascii-art seems to have copied it. And just beware of posts from "webmasters" and "root"...

  • "I'll have to tattoo this onto my back":
    From: (Benjamin Weiland)
    Newsgroups: de.alt.rec.ascii-art
    Subject: Re: korpulierende hamster ;)
    Date: Mon, 27 Nov 2000 17:21:52 GMT
    Message-ID: <>
    X-Newsreader: Forte Free Agent 1.21/32.243 (Robert Kuhn) wollte folgendes der Öffentlichkeit
    nicht vorenthalten:

    BAD Attribution - KMail

    The standard attribution of KMail is
    On DATE, your wrote:


    On Friday 19 October 2001 12:42, you wrote:

    This is BAD because both the name and the address is missing. You might not care about this in one-to-one communication - but it certainly is HELL when you use it on mailing lists.

    This and broken MIDs make KMail unfit for the use with mailinglists. Either the authors of KMail fix this - or KMail will be banned.

    BAD Attribution - Outlook Express

    OutlookExpress seems to add the MID by default

    001114, Message-ID: <8upu5h$dfr$00$>
    X-Newsreader: Microsoft Outlook Express 5.00.2615.200
    Nils Dudda <****@********> schrieb in im Newsbeitrag:
    God knows why the MID is not set in angle brackets and why OE adds ellipsis.

    BAD Attribution - SLRN

    Alas, even the attribution of SLRN is not safe from the individualism of some users:

    "42" is not always the answer

    From: Neuromancer <Please@nlyReplyTo.Group>
    Subject: Re: slrn and selecting servers
    Date: 6 Dec 2000 01:36:06 GMT
    Message-ID: <>
    Reply-To: Please@nlyReplyTo.Group
    User-Agent:  slrn/ (Linux)
      Thus spake David Efflandt about Life, the Universe, and,
      Re: slrn and selecting servers:

    BAD Attribution - TheBat

    The default setup for TheBat looks something like this (in the German version):

    Guten Tag %OFromName,
    am %ODate um %OTime schrieben Sie:

    The "%Quotes" mean "place the quoted text here" - and "%Cursor" places the cursor right after that. This way the cursor is *after* the quoted text which hopefully prevents users from producing TOFU (text over, fullquote under).

    An example of a near-default attribution:

    Hallo Sven,
    Saturday, February 22, 2003, 9:11:08 PM, you wrote:

    So every reply is a personal one - even on mailing lists.

    Mind you, TheBat also prefixes quoted text with the intials of the Sender's name:

    SG> quote initials indent text even further..

    I suggest to drop this feature as it makes reformatting quoted text even harder - and comb quoting even more likely.

    You can turn this off in the German version by changing "Absender-Informationen für Zitate" from "Initialen" to "keine".

    BAD Attribution - Pseudo-Funny

    Here's an example of the "individual attribution symptom":
  • "The cleric":
    000821, Ernst Ottenbacher <>
    Message-ID: <>
      Es begab sich am Mon, 21 Aug 2000 21:18:19 +0200, dass "Andre Mahal"
      <********@*******************> sein Keyboard ergriff und wutentbrannt
  • "The bible syndrome:"
    001108, Pete 'The Hutt' Klassen <>
    Message-ID: <>
      On the stormy day of Wed, 8 Nov 2000 19:24:00 +0100, thou, oh
      "Thomas Baumgartner" <*****@*********************>, said thy word and
      thy word was:
  • "Quote the newsgroup header":
    001025, Martijn van Buul <>:
      Sven Guckes (guckes@domain)
      ueberraschte de.comp.editoren mit folgender Mitteilung:

    Created:     Tue Apr 18 12:00:00 MET DST 2000
    Send feedback on this page to
    Sven Guckes