Apple Mail: How to Include Only Selected Text in Email Replies

When someone sends you an email in Apple Mail on the Mac or on the iPhone/iPad, replying usually ends up sending the entire contents of that person’s original message back to him or her…unless you plan ahead.
The copying of an original email’s text when sending a reply is referred to as “quoting” the original message. The default behavior of the Mail app is to quote the entire message but there are options you can configure to quote only certain parts of the message. Here’s a look at how you can configure quoting of text to maximize the efficiency and clarity of your emails.

Apple Mail: How to Include Only Selected Text in Email Replies

Quoting Selected Text in Mail

To change the way that Apple Mail handles quoted text in your emails, first launch Mail and then select Mail > Preferences from the menu bar at the top of the screen.
mac mail preferences
When the Preferences window opens, click on the “Composing” tab, and you’ll find the options for quoting text at the bottom:
quote text mail mac
Choose the option labeled Include selected text, if any; otherwise include all text. Now, if you don’t select anything in the original email when you hit reply, you’ll see the entire message quoted as normal. If, however, you highlight some portion of the original message before hitting reply, only that highlighted portion will be included, allowing you to avoid any unnecessary information for your email recipients.
To demonstrate how this works, see this example email below:
mail mail email message
I want to reply to this message, but I only want the sentence in the middle to be quoted in my reply email. So, with the option referenced earlier enabled, I’ll first select the desired text in the original email:
Email with Selected Text to Reply to in Apple Mail
Then I’ll hit the “reply” button (note, this also works when forwarding emails). When the new email window appears, only the text I selected will be quoted at the bottom.
selected text quoted email reply
If I didn’t select any text in the original email before hitting reply, the entire message would be quoted. Note also that you can turn off quoting entirely by returning to Mail > Preferences > Composing and unchecking the box labeled Quote the text of the original message.

Quoting Selected Text in Mail for iOS

On the iPhone or iPad, this is even simpler; you don’t have to turn any settings on—it should just work! To test it out, find an email you’ve received, tap and hold briefly on a word to select it, then let go.
Tapping to Select Text on iPhone
Use the little blue handles shown above to drag the selection around the part you want to quote, like so:
Dragging to Select Text on iPhone
When you’re finished, tap the leftward-facing arrow at the bottom.
Reply Icon on iPhone
Then choose “Reply” from the pop-up.
Pop-up Options Window on iPhone
Afterward, you’ll see your reply ready for you to compose, complete with only the section of the original email you’d selected!
Composing Reply with Quoted Text on iPhone
As I noted, this is very useful if you want to call out something one of your contacts said in a message without including his signature, for example, or any other stuff from the original email. If you’re like me, though, you’ll forget to select some text before you click “Reply,” and you’ll have to go back and do it all over again. This’ll be handier if you’re not like me.

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