Inspired by this question: Is it okay to slightly modify a forwarded email?, but I'm not talking about a colleague's spelling or grammatical errors, but autogenerated messages that are appended to emails.

You know the ones: A lot of companies have an automatic footer applied to emails along the lines of:

The information in this email may be confidential. If you are not the intended recipient of this email don't copy, forward, move, print, read... etc etc

I don't have a problem with these messages themselves, but due to the way the emails are handled, long email chains can have multiple copies of this little paragraph. Sometimes they are spread sporadically through the chain like little landmines, making reading the entire thread a slog, and other times they are bunched together at the bottom in one big heap, making the scroll bar unnecessarily small in comparison.

If I'm the "intended recipient" and need to respond to the email, Is it ok to remove duplicates of this confidentiality message? The overall goal being to improve readability with regards to lengthy email threads: Some threads I estimate as much as a 40% space saving by simply removing duplicated text, allowing for a more scannable conversation and easier scrolling.

I'd be leaving one copy of the paragraph for each company involved - some are slightly different in their wording and all still 'legally' apply so it makes sense to keep at least one of each. In all cases that I've seen there's no sentence saying I shouldn't remove the duplicate messages, but is this frowned upon?

  • Legality or professionalism aside, I doubt removing them would be a good use of anyone's time. Commented Oct 20, 2017 at 8:25
  • In passing, I'll mention that I'd be a bit more impressed by these footers if they were at the TOP of the email, so that people at least had the chance to see them before reading the contents... ;D
    – akaioi
    Commented Oct 21, 2017 at 4:34
  • I have edited to address the closure reason, explicitly stating my goal of improving readability & reducing overhead by removing duplicated text. Please let me know if you need further information.
    – Robotnik
    Commented Oct 24, 2017 at 3:11

2 Answers 2


If I'm the "intended recipient" and need to respond to the email, Is it ok to remove duplicates of this little message and/or move them to the bottom?

For the most official answer I think you should consult your company's legal department or whoever is responsible for having created the confidentiality message in the first place. It's possible that the implications of moving or removing the duplicates might vary from one company or situation to another.

If that's not possible, an option that should be pretty safe is to remove some of the older quoted messages in their entirety, possibly replacing them with a placeholder like "Older messages removed for brevity." Usually, everyone on the email list will have read the previous messages or at least have access to them anyway, so there's little need to reproduce the entire chain in every new message. Removing all but the most recent will make it easier for readers to find and understand the new additions to the conversation.

  • I understand where you're coming from and thanks for the answer, but I dislike the idea of removing potentially relevant information including the confidentiality messages themselves, which is why I focused on the duplication issue. We have many multi-vendor threads with a lot of included parties (to the point where I have Outlook rules specifically to move emails sent to specific mail groups) - I'm primarily concerned with the 100 or so duplicated 'confidential' paragraphs that are building up at the bottom of some of the larger threads making scrolling a nightmare.
    – Robotnik
    Commented Oct 20, 2017 at 2:35

It's your email, unless there is a concrete policy in place, you can do anything you want. You don't have to abide by a contract you never agreed to.

Imagine a footer, 'LEGAL:- If you read this email in it's entirety you must give $500 to me in small unmarked bills.'

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