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5. Make It Readable And People Will Respond

On a discussion board all people have to go on is text. It’s hard to get others to respect someone’s opinion if it is clear that they do not respect the medium. So we recommend that you aim as much as you can to format your message to look like something you’d find in a quality newspaper (or on a quality newspaper’s website).

That means employing a mixture of capital and lower case letters in a traditional manner – neither all caps, nor all lower case. On the Internet typing something ALL IN BLOCK CAPITAL LETTERS tends to be interpreted as SHOUTING. It’s harder to read than a message that uses mixed case, too. It also helps to use punctuation, and to make sure things are spelled correctly. We provide a ‘Preview Message’ facility when posting, so you can see your message as it will appear on the board, and double-check your spelling, etc, before submitting it. After all, if the writer does not care about the message, why should any of the readers bother to reply to it?

Plain text will do fine for most messages, but if you want to get a little more elaborate the boards allow you to include bold and italic text (or even both). This is done by using “formatting tags” around the text to be formatted. The Discussion Boards Help Page explains how.

One use of formatting is to quote the bits of a message to which you’re replying. Not everyone will read your reply immediately after reading the message to which you are responding, so when you’re replying to something, it’s a good idea to quote an appropriate fragment of it and to make the quoted text italic, so that readers can distinguish what’s from the original message and what is your reply.

If the whole of your message is a table, a set of figures, or something comparable, you could post it in “Table Data” mode – that way, the layout of whatever you type will be preserved. However, do bear in mind that you are then responsible for inserting line breaks at appropriate places by using the RETURN key. (And yes, people forgetting to do so explains those occasional messages where you have to scroll to the right to read very long lines of text!)