My Mainly About Using E-Mail is derived from this, and the separation may not yet be complete. Read that as well.
I believe that your news postings will be better appreciated, and will be more likely to generate helpful follow-ups, if you heed the following suggestions. Some are firmly RFC-based; others include my personal interpretations of what I believe to be generally acceptable in the type of newsgroups that I use myself : please let me know of any errors.
Much more comprehensive references than this page can be found in Prof. Timo Salmi's Usenet Q&A, Frequently Asked News Questions and Usenet Netiquette (advice on creating new newsgroups, etc.); the material is now better obtained from these Web pages by him. There is another among the many FAQs in the demon.answers newsgroup. See also the Big-8 newusers newsgroup, and its Links Page. Current USEFOR thinking (work-in-progress) may be visible via my Mainly About News-Groups.
The UK News Committee site.
Microsoft have published news guidelines (now where?). Borland have specific guidelines for their own news hierarchy.
On the use of plaintext and of quoting, see http://www.usenet.org.uk/ukpost.html; it is written for news:uk.*, which has the same conventions.
There is a periodic posting in news:uk.*, 'Configuring your newsreader to post to uk.*', also in HTML. at www.usenet.org.uk. Actually, it is applicable to the rest of news:* too.
See also :-
The Acceptable Usage Policies of my service provider (Demon, U.K.) can be found on another page; formally, of course, they only apply to Demon customers, but their guidance should be generally applicable.
See also Abuse, and be warned.
ISPs generally provide access to a news server.
Some hierarchies have private servers.
There are public servers; the Web site for
a commonly-recommended free one was
2003-07-27 : changes now seem afoot; see at http://news.individual.net/ ?
2004-02-16 : from this day, the old name is no longer publicly usable.
2005-02-15 : seen : "They are going to start charging for the service." - from April 1st.
By default, all postings in most newsgroups were archived at DejaNews, unless otherwise marked. (Feb 2001: Google News bought Deja's data.)
On the Web, News can be accessed in an acceptable manner via Google Groups (but see in About News-Posting). Anyone can use it to read; some form of registration is needed for writing.
There are many other tools, at sites like ??? ...?
It is rarely appropriate to put a test posting, of any form, in a normal newsgroup - use one with ".test" in its name, and one as local as meets your needs. You should receive autoresponder replies (though of late demon.test gives none, and uk.test only a couple), but these can be inhibited by putting "no reply" or "ignore" in the Subject line ... ?
There is a Cancel FAQ, posted to news:news.answers by Tim Skirvin.
Any decent newsreader will allow an author to cancel a news posting of his own (or a forgery in his name); consult the menus and on-line Help. This means that a special "cancel" article, which should include explanatory text, will be launched and can cancel or supersede any copy of the original that it catches up with. Details may depend on the policy of the site where this occurs.
Whether or not to cancel depends on the circumstances. If you notice an error just after posting, cancel; if you inadvertently multi-post, cancel. But if you only realise a day later, cancellation will be largely ineffective and it may be better to follow-up with a correction. IMHO, it will always be right to cancel a misplaced binary or off-topic text in a text group.
A sysadmin is capable of cancelling his users' articles, and is entitled to do so in case of abuse (intentional or accidental).
It is also possible to cancel articles on news archive sites.
MS OE : Highlight the message in the newsgroup, then Message ment, Cancel Message.
When writing news or mail, it is courteous to include the correct date and time in your headers - see Time Zone Setting (and my Summer Time and Time Zones).
If, for any reason, the above are not formally and exactly correct, it is essential that the situation be conspicuously and clearly explained in the body of the message.
I am assured that, in such as "From" header lines, the form a.b <email@example.com> is non-compliant with RFC822 (the dot between a & b is not allowed); use either "a.b" <firstname.lastname@example.org> (evidently lawful) or email@example.com (a.b) (which parses as address comment) instead.
Nowadays, it seems wise not to give a valid E-address in the "From:" line, since that line can be efficiently harvested. The "Reply-To:" line is less easy to harvest, and it is well to use a deliberable address there for the convenience of people who wish to reply.
If possible, however, the "Reply-To:" address should be disposable rather than cherished.
All addresses given should be ones that you have permission to use; and on no account should there be any possibility of the address being valid for someone else. That includes anything that looks like an address, such as a message-ID; and includes both cloaked and uncloaked forms.
The Subject line should indicate the topic; and also, at the start of a thread, the language. Putting just "Help", or similar, is non-productive. However, make sure that the body of the message, independently of anything in the header, is self-contained and stands alone.
"Re: " should not be translated : RFC2822.
Usually, it is only necessary to put an article in a single newsgroup. However, if more need to be used, do cross-post a single copy correctly by listing all of the relevant groups together, comma-separated, in the header of a single posting; any follow-up will then normally appear in all those groups. Do not multi-post duplicates of the same article repeatedly to different relevant groups, since that wastes everybody's resources - and temper.
See also Timo Salmi's tsfaqn, #14 : "What is cross-posting? How do I do it?"; the material is now better obtained from these Web pages by him.
Curiously, if posting irrelevant material, multi-posting is better.
When initiating, post a single copy to as few groups as possible; when following-up, if necessary change the set of groups to suit the new situation (bearing in mind that some readers may be happily following the thread in a non-optimum group, and people finding it in a new group may not see what has gone before). Avoid cross-posting contentious material to logorrhetic groups, which will generate cross-posted follow-ups ...
See, for example, Jukka Korpela : Why and how to crosspost, and David Stevenson : Multiposting vs Crossposting, and Multiposting.
Top-posting, bottom-quoting - bad.
Bottom-posting, top-quoting - good.
Selective quoting, then response - best.
Before deciding to respond (by News or Mail) to a News (or Mail) article, especially one which appears to be a "misfit" to its newsgroup, it is wise to look at the full header of the article, to see what can be learnt about the originator.
When responding in News to a previous posting, use your system's Follow-Up facility, which should generate correct back-references; posting a new article with the same title would start a new thread and annoy other users. Change the title if the topic has really mutated enough to require it. BUT be sure to start a new thread instead of following-up if your topic is truly new. Check which groups your reply is going to.
In follow-ups, whether News or Mail, CUT headers & signatures, PRUNE quotations, and preserve sequence. See news:news.newusers.questions - Quoting Text in Replies or How to post.
That is to say, quote above each part of your reply as much of the earlier stuff as is needed to put the new material in context, but no more; most readers will be able to refer to the earlier article itself, if need be. Never write on the same line as a quotation, except in lists and notes; generally leave a wholly blank line between. Do not quote the header or the signature, unless it is relevant to do so.
The preferred quote-line-introducer is ">" - see Son-of-RFC1036 and GNKSA.
In newsgroups, requests such as "please e-mail me with more information at ....... Do not reply here because I do not read newsgroups, so I won't get the message." are generally considered highly offensive.
If you want articles following-up to your current one to appear in a different set of newsgroups, edit the Followup-To: header line correspondingly. Then be courteous enough to refer to this in the text; "FUs set" or "FU:c.l.p.b,d.s" or similar generally suffices.
Many do not see how to quote properly in Google, since the changes of early 2005.
Chris Croughton posted :
Keith Thompson wrote in comp.lang.c, message ID <firstname.lastname@example.org> :-
If you want to post a followup via groups.google.com, don't use the "Reply" link at the bottom of the article. Click on "show options" at the top of the article, then click on the "Reply" at the bottom of the article headers.
Also search Google Groups Help Center for How can I automatically quote the previous message when I post a reply?.
I've seen it suggested that the options offered may depend on the age of the article.
In mid-June 2006, the action of "Reply" may have changed.
It should rarely be appropriate to enquire or to respond (unless so requested) by both News and Mail; this imposes an unnecessary burden, particularly on dial-up users.
If you do choose to do so, it is both courteous and important that you state at the beginning of both items that you are doing so; mail is normally read before news, and the recipient can then decide in time whether to respond in one or both media; otherwise, duplication may lead to confusion and extra work for the recipient.
Transgressors who E-mail me are liable to see a reply in News along the lines of :-
1. You have sent that in both Mail and News, without marking them as such: please read http://www.merlyn.demon.co.uk/news-use.htm#NandM.
2. In http://www.merlyn.demon.co.uk/news-use.htm#NandM , there are strong words against those who send in both Mail and News but do not mark the duplication.
3. I consider it quite unnecessary to send by unsolicited E-mail a copy of a message which is being posted in News, and most discourteous to do so without marking the beginning of both copies clearly to this effect.
In "world" and "U.K." newsgroups, if it lies within your powers, write in normal English with proper spelling and layout; that is so much easier to read. On the other hand, if English is not your mother tongue, don't worry about it and just do your best. However, should you feel that more people will properly understand what you want to say if you use another language, then do so; but indicate it in the Subject.
Remember (except in local groups, and not always even then) that News is an international medium. Do not assume that all readers are in your own country and so know your local abbreviations (e.g. IRS, 1099, MCC).
It seems that the answerers are usually more language-confident than some questioners; IMHO answerers should consider adding a precis (of Q&A) in English if answering in another language.
READ your article before you post it, preferably more than once; and re-read an article that you are replying to.
Put spaces between sentences; put blank lines between paragraphs; punctuate and capitalise in the customary manner.
2002-02-16 : Acronyms are now in Usenet Abbreviations and Acronyms.
The term *plonk* customarily stands for the action of kill-ruling an author, so that one no longer sees his or her newsgroup postings.
Select the newsgroup carefully and correctly.
If you have nothing constructive to write, please have the courtesy to write nothing.
Except in some foreign-language hierarchies, news should be posted as plain ASCII text; for this, a simple rule is to use only those characters on a US PC keyboard (as UK, omitting Shift-3 and Shift-`). For the convenience of those using intelligent news readers, do not claim in your header that you are using a less common character set than is needed to accommodate the characters you use. For example, claiming "Content-Type: text/plain; charset=x-user-defined" or "Content-Type: text/plain; charset=euc-kr" for an ASCII posting is an annoyance when Turnpike insists on pointing it out. "Content-Type: text/plain; charset=us-ascii" is no problem.
In non-binary groups, you can only rely on the characters in the ASCII-7 set (the U.S. keyboard set) being properly received. Do not post encoded stuff; watch out for systems which MIME-encode some characters, so that for example "=" is sent as "=3D" and "£" as "=A3"; most readers will not decode this for you.
If you have inadvertently saved text in that format, try my DEMIME program (improved, Jan 2002) in my programs directory.
To be sorted out : In News (and in Mail unless both ends are known to have better capability) avoid the U.K. currency symbol "£", which does not travel reliably; use GBP, which is the ISO standard abbreviation, instead.
Do not post raw Web pages; so do not post HTML, unless discussing the HTML language.
Some wretched Microsoft product can post in duplicate, text/plain and text/html, which is almost as annoying - be sure only to post plain text in News.
Posting anything other than plain text is offensive; posting encoded material is particularly so.
The charters of most newsgroups ban binary postings; note that word processor output, "attachments" and "enclosures" are frequently implemented as binary.
Text is easier to read if the lines are of no more than moderate length; convention is that text lines should not normally exceed about 70-72 characters.
Wrap your text with hard <CR><LF> at about 70 characters/line, and then it can be displayed on standard screens and moderately quoted without exceeding 80 characters. It is therefore best to compose using a non-proportional font. Signatures, which should not be quoted, can go up to 79 characters.
Put blank lines between your paragraphs, and do so reasonably frequently. Put them also after quoted material.
Code should be indented to show its structure.
Do not allow code to be machine-wrapped; and, to reduce the problem, use a unit of say two spaces rather than tab when indenting to show code structure.
Commercial advertising is unwelcome, discouraged or banned in most newsgroups.
Private for-sale advertising, except in specialist, local, newsgroups, is generally anti-social; the benefit to the buyer and seller is greatly outweighed by the total cost to all the rest of us.
Not only are "pyramid" schemes illegal in the better-run countries, but the normal result of such a posting in News is that the poster's service provider receives numerous E-mails calling for the closure of the account. AIUI, most providers do take suitable action.
When recommending a program, it is useful to give a Garbo or SimtelNet URL whenever possible, because these are effective sites and are widely mirrored. In particular, Demon users will generally find it much more efficient to use the Demon mirrors of these. Always give a URL in full, with the leading "ftp://", "http://", etc.; some readers then recognise the URL as such.
Experts should not give students answers on a plate, but should help those who have tried and are perplexed; but there is no need for a song and dance about it. However, it is often good exercise for a student to try to extract something worthwhile from the answers of other students.
Unless there is good reason for confidentiality, give your true name and your organisation (your own, maybe "Home"; not that of your service provider); otherwise, many of us will tend to disregard what you may have to say. Don't assume that we're all in your own country. It can be useful to give a brief but adequate corporate postal address, but it could be unwise to give a full home address or telephone number.
If you give no clear indication of nationality (in the body of the article, the signature, the Organization line, the E-address), then you are likely to be assumed to be (1) an American, (2) therefore moderately familiar with English.
A Signature serves two purposes; it indicates that the text has ended, and it can be used to carry useful information. For the first reason, I recommend the use of at least a termination mark. Good news/mail software provides a signature file facility.
For the consensus recommendation, see Son-of-RFC1036 section 4.3.2, end; also RFC1855, a.k.a. FYI28; also RFC2646 section 4.3; also RFC3676.
There is, for good reasons, a (non-mandatory, but common) convention on News signature lengths; a signature should consist of no more than FOUR lines (including all blank lines - watch out for trailing blanks). Reasons : (a) "bandwidth" → byte-count; (b) "scrolling" → line-count. Of course, hardly anyone much minds a slight excess, if the material is worthwhile and makes reasonably full use of each line; but lines of dashes are pointless, and both tall thin signatures and "ASCII art" are annoying - and cost time and money to download, store, and read.
Convention (see, for example, in Son-of-RFC1036 (Section 4.3.2, end); or RFC2646; or in Turnpike Offline Help Signatures) is that it should be preceded by a line containing just "minus minus space"; good software recognises this, for trimming in replies.
If your favourite editor will not keep a space at the end of the line, then use another - Dos6.20 EDIT and WfWg3.11 Notepad are OK; or edit in three minuses and use a DOS DEBUG script to alter the third to hexadecimal 20.
It helps if you normally include your own true name and E-mail address, though some authors prefer to disguise the latter to hinder robo-abusers.
Including anything such as "regards," is hypocritical; if and when you really mean it, you should type it in before the sig. There is little sillier than a posting saying, in effect: "You mindless oaf! / Best Regards, / Fred".
Do check the spelling in your Signature files carefully!
From GNKSA 2.0 :-
Posting software SHOULD separate any signature appended to outgoing articles from the main text with a line containing only `-- ' ("dash dash space"). To quote son-of-rfc1036 :-
If a poster or posting agent does append a signature to an article, the signature SHOULD be preceded with a delimiter line containing (only) two hyphens (ASCII 45) followed by one blank (ASCII 32). Posting agents SHOULD limit the length of signatures, since verbose excess bordering on abuse is common if no restraint is imposed; 4 lines is a common limit.
Hence, posting software MUST prevent the user from using excessively long signatures, or at least warn the user against it. A widely accepted standard is the so-called McQuary limit: up to 4 lines, each up to a maximum of 80 characters.
I prefer fewer than 80 (i.e. 79) - one user has a terminal that wraps after 80 characters.
Advertising is acceptable in four-line signatures; but it must not be the reason for sending the article.
My personal practice is generally to ignore them, i.e. to offer no response, unless anonymity appears justified. This can be modified if they actually seem sensible and interesting (fairly unusual); and I will follow up if I think that, for the benefit of others, their statements need correction. On any specific occasion I may ignore my own policy (recursively), of course.
I apply the same, less strongly, to those without reasonable personal names or with silly organisations, to those with stupid or inadequate signatures, to those who post the same article several times in one or more newsgroups, etc., and to those who obviously should be able to write in proper English but choose not to do so.
"Be conservative in what you send and liberal in what you receive" (RFC1855/FYI28).