Email Thread: What Is It & Best Practices

Ludovic Armand
by Ludovic Armand

You’re probably already familiar with the concept of an email thread. They certainly have been part of your email inbox at some point, or maybe you still use them for your business communication.

Email threading allows you to trace the history of your emails easily, but it comes with certain disadvantages.

In this blog, we’ll look at email threads' advantages and disadvantages and how you can use Missive to take advantage of the future of email conversations.

What Is an Email Thread?

An email thread is the chain of messages and replies between you and other people, grouped together in a conversation. When you click "Reply" to a message, your new message is added to the end of the thread so that everyone can follow the conversation.

This way, you can see the whole conversation that has taken place between you and other people. Unless someone is removed from the copy, all recipients will receive all the group messages with their replies.

Email thread replies are typically arranged in chronological order starting from the first reply to the most recent one. This arrangement is helpful for recipients who are following the conversation because it’s organized the discussion in a simple structure.

Email threading can be helpful when you need to refer to a previous conversation.

With email threading enabled in your email client, all replies will automatically use the "RE:" preposition in the subject line and will be grouped in one discussion.

Advantages of Email Threading

An email thread can be extremely beneficial in several ways for your business communications. Here are some reasons why email threading can be helpful:

Reduce Inbox Clutter

First, email threads can help reduce the amount of time you spend managing your inbox. By keeping all messages in one place, you can quickly scan through a thread and get the information you need without having to search through your entire inbox.

Keep All Recipients Informed

A conversation view can help improve communication with your team. By keeping everyone on the same page, you can avoid miscommunication and ensure that everyone is on the same page.

Organize All Related Emails

Email threads allow you to keep track of an entire conversation in one place by organizing related emails into one group. This can be very helpful when trying to resolve an issue or follow up on a task.

Disadvantages of Email Threading

While an email thread can be a helpful way to keep track of related messages, it can also have some drawbacks. Here are some of the disadvantages of email threading:

Email Can Get Long

It can be difficult to follow a thread if it gets too long or if there are too many messages in it. When email threading is enabled, each reply to an email is grouped with the original email and any previous replies.

Additionally, if you delete an email in a thread, it can delete all emails in the thread, which can be frustrating if you only wanted to delete one email.

Data Leak

When an email thread is shared with both people from your organization and people externally, there are high risk of sharing internal communication with the people in the thread outside of your organization.

This happens when people communicate internally about a specific thread and forget to remove the external recipients from the message.

Email Threading Is Not Universally Supported

Some email providers do not support email threading, which can make it difficult to keep track of conversations if you switch between providers. If you’re using an email provider that does not support email threading.

Some Recipients May Receive Irrelevant Emails

Some recipients of email threads may receive irrelevant emails. This is because when someone replies to an email thread, everyone who was originally included in the thread will receive the reply.

This can be a problem if the original email was not relevant to everyone in the conversation or if the reply is not for all the recipients of the emails and is only for internal communication.

Missive: Communications Made Easy

Missive is a collaboration tool for teams built around emails. It’s a great way to communicate with your team and collaborate on emails and other types of communication mediums.

With Missive, you can take advantage of the best email threading practices to make while avoiding all its disadvantages. It’s easy to collaborate and discuss with your team members privately in an email thread with people from outside your organization.

Communications with your colleagues are sent as chat messages directly in the conversation with the emails. It ensures that you don’t send confidential information accidentally to the wrong people.

This way there is no data leak possible, internal communication happens via chat messages, and external communication happens via emails.

Internal chat in Missive

Missive also lets you easily share emails with other team members without having to send them a copy of the email. You can either link to an email in a new conversation, mention them in a chat inside the email conversation, or assign a team or someone personally.

Best of all, you can merge all types of messages in one conversation, let it be emails, chats, SMS, social media messages, call logs, voicemail, etc.

You can easily assign conversations to anyone in Missive

How to Enable Email Threads in Your Email Client

The most popular email clients support email threads and enable them by default. However, here’s how to activate it in the most popular email clients:

Gmail Threads

By default, Email threading is enabled in Google’s email client. Here’s how to manage email thread setting in Gmail.

Gmail the Web

  1. Open Gmail in your browser.

  2. Click on the gear icon in the upper-right and then click on See all settings.

Gmail web app settings
  1. In General, select Conversation view on in the Conversation View section.
Gmail web app conversation view setting
  1. Click Save.

Gmail on Mobile

  1. Open the Gmail app on your device.

  2. Click on the 3 horizontal lines icon in the top left of the screen.

  3. In the menu that appears, scroll down to the settings option and click on it.

Gmail mobile app settings
  1. In the settings menu, click Inbox customizations in the Inbox section.
Gmail mobile app Inbox customizations settings
  1. Toggle the Conversation view on and off to enable or disable it.
Gmail mobile app Conversation view toggle
  1. Click Done to exit the settings menu.

Outlook Threads

Email thread is turned on by default in Microsoft’s email client. Here’s how to manage email thread settings in Outlook.

Outlook on the Web

  1. Open Outlook in your browser.

  2. Click on the gear icon in the upper right.

  3. Select Group into conversations in the Arrange message list section.

Outlook web app Group into conversations setting

Outlook on Mobile

  1. Open the Outlook app on your device.

  2. Click on the profile icon in the top left corner, and then on the gear icon in the bottom left corner to open the settings.

Outlook mobile app setting button
  1. Toggle on Organize By Thread in the Mail section.
Outlook mobile app Organize By Thread toggle setting

Apple Mail Threads

Email thread is turned on by default on Apple’s email client. Here’s how to manage email thread setting in Apple Mail.

Apple Mail on macOS

  1. Open the Mail app on your Mac.

  2. Click on View in the top menu.

  3. Select Organize by Conversation from the list of options.

Apple mail on MacOS Organize by Conversation setting

Apple Mail on iOS

  1. Open the Settings app on your iPhone or iPad.

  2. Scroll down to the Mail setting and click on it.

  3. Scroll to the Threading section and toggle on Organize by Thread.

Apple mail on iOS Complete Threads toggle setting


In Missive, email threading is always on. As a collaborative app, we think that threading is part of the core experience. However, we do offer an alternative for people who prefer each email to have its conversation.

You can move an email out of its original conversation and into a new one with just one click. This is a great way to keep important emails separate from the rest of the conversation, which can be noisy and overwhelming.

Apple mail on iOS Complete Threads toggle setting

Best Practices for Effective Email Threads

If you decide that you prefer to stick with email threads for your professional discussions, no worries.

Here are a few etiquettes in mind to keep email threads effective.

Use a Clear Subject Line

First, always include a clear and concise subject line that accurately reflects the content of the email. This will help recipients quickly understand what the email is about and whether or not they need to read it.

Even if this rule doesn’t only apply to email strings, it is really important in a thread to be sure the subject line accurately reflects the content of the conversation.

Stay on Topic

When using a thread to reply to messages, always make sure to stay on topic. If the conversation veers off course, start a new email thread. This will help to keep the discussion focused and avoid getting lost in the messages when trying to follow the conversation.

Don’t Overuse Email Threads

Email threads are a great way to communicate in emails and organize replies in a nice and sorted conversation. However, if an email thread becomes too long or convoluted, consider moving the discussion to another medium, such as a phone call or in-person meeting.

Emails are not a chat. Other tools like Missive will be best suited for chatting and exchanging with your colleagues.

Be Clear About What You Are Replying

An email thread can quickly become confusing if people are not clear about what they are replying to. When replying to an email, always include a reference to the original message so that the recipient knows which part of the conversation you are replying to.

If the original message is no longer visible in the thread, quote it in your reply so that everyone can see what you are referring to. This will help to keep the conversation flowing smoothly and prevent misunderstandings.

Only Use Cc and Bcc When Necessary

Threads can quickly become confusing and difficult to follow when too many people are in CC (carbon copy) or BCC (blind carbon copy).

Only use cc and bcc when absolutely necessary to avoid overwhelming recipients and cluttering up the thread. When in doubt, it’s usually best to leave people off the cc or bcc list.


Email threading can be a useful tool, but it’s not for everyone. Some people prefer to keep their messages separate, and others find that email threading makes it harder to find the messages they’re looking for. Ultimately, it’s up to you to decide whether email threading is a helpful feature or a hindrance.


What Is an Email Thread?

An email thread is a sequence of messages with the same subject organized into a conversation. When you reply to a message, the new message is added to the end of the thread.

How to Reply to an Email in a Thread?

You usually can "reply" or "reply all" in most email clients. The first option replies just to the form, and reply all replies to From + TO + CC.

How to Remove Someone From an Email Thread?

To remove someone from an email thread simply remove their email address from the CC or BCC section of the email.

Is email threading the future?

There’s no doubt that email threading is a convenient way to keep track of conversations, especially when multiple people are involved. But threads are actually a hindrance to productivity, as it can be difficult to follow a conversation. It also poses a security risk as it can be easy to accidentally share internal communication outside the organization.

With new tools, like Missive, that enable teams to collaborate outside the regular emails there is no doubt that a collaborative inbox will soon replace the traditional email thread.

Ludovic Armand

Digital Marketing Lead at Missive
Follow me on Twitter