E-mail Layout and Text Editors
By Rob Zee, IMAGE-LIST No. 16 Vol. 2
First, e-mail is sent using strictly text files. Sometimes it's
referred to as ASCII [say it as "ask-key"] -- it stands for the
Amercian Standard Character Information Interchange. It's used
primarily on UNIX and DOS boxes -- mainframe and VMS machines
use EBCDIC [say "ebb-see-dick"].
Text file lines are normally 255 characters or less in length and
are physically terminated by the ASCII #10 and #13 (line feed and
carriage return characters) at the end of each line [UNIX only
uses ASCII #13 to terminate line].
The reason this is important to know is due to Windows, which
often uses a "modified text" file. The characters are stored as
text, but can be a very hugh line -- the editors [also word
processors] automatically break up the line [wraps it] and the
enter key in the file causes a "paragraph break."
In other words, when you send e-mail using most Windows based
editors, "WYSAWG -- What You See AIN'T What You Get!" The lines
will "wrap" in the editor but not in your e-mail. This paragraph
will come out like this:
In other words, when you send e-mail using most Windows based editors,
"WYSAWG -- What You See AIN'T What You Get!" The lines will "wrap" in the
editor but not in your e-mail.
Some mail readers "might" fix the line, but many will show one
long line. It looks dumb, it's very hard to read because folks
have to scroll each line back and forth using their mouse, and
laser printers won't print the entire line -- it gets truncated.
If you use a Windows based editor like Notepad and others, you
must physically "hit the enter key" at the end of each line to
"force" a line break. Also, it should be "saved as" a DOS type
text file if you're not using Notepad.
Here's a few tips about how your message should look:
- make lines about 65 characters wide
- avoid "tabs" -- use spaces instead
- avoid columns and ASCII graphics -- may not look right
if the recipient is using a "proportional font" reader
- to indicate special word(s) or spelling(s) use "quotes"
- to call attention to reqular word(s) use ALL CAPS
- use "quotes" and ALL CAPS sparingly -- over use will
render them useless and make your message look gaudy
- if your message is over a few lines long, separate the
ideas into paragraphs with a blank line -- easy to read
Some alterations on standard usages due to computers:
In general, avoid using any special characters unless you're
describing a computer command or address. Here's a list of
special characters to avoid:
- the double dash "--" is used the same as before -- to
indicate that you're providing a definition, however
"nowadays" it's done with spaces surrounding them
not like this--with no spaces
but like this -- with spaces
it's in common use due to how editors will wrap lines
and because it's much easier to read on the screen.
- special characters can be left outside of quotes:
not -> My address is "kww.com/dema/."
use -> My address is "kww.com/dema/".
so that people won't accidently include period when
typing in your address on the computer
- to indicate a required tag that must be included
use math-symbols < > such as:
- to indicate an optional tag that may be excluded
use brackets [ ] such as: [web address]
~ tilde \ back-slash
@ commercial "at" _ underscore
^ caret | bar or pipe
* asterisk ` left quote
(any other character that is not on the keyboard)
The main idea of using these standards and proper e-mail usage is
so that your e-mail will look professional. Often, companies who
use direct e-mail marketing will never get to see or talk to most
of their customers. Your customers can only judge you by what
they see in your e-mail. If you type "Thanx, dude(ss)" folks will
think you are young [inexperienced] or maybe that you're illiterate
I've been using e-mail since 1981. Having operated my own BBS
[electronic bulletin board service] since 1981 using software I
developed, used the Internet since 1990, and made many of the
same mistakes everyone else does, I hope my ideas here will help
you and others. Feel free to share this, and other articles, with
others, but please give me credit.