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EFFECTIVE COMMUNICATIONS
VIA EMAIL OR PUBLIC FORUMS
CONTENTS

ABOUT THIS ARTICLE

The following article offers many great tips and guidelines
for more effective communications when using Email or posting 
messages in a public forum. 

Your comments, critiques, or additions to this topic would be
greatly appreciated. It's a work in progress with potential 
to help many people.  

---Pete, High Tech Handyman---

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AVOID OVER-QUOTING

TIP: When replying using quoted text, avoid what's called 
over-quoting or excessive quoting. Most times it serves no 
real purpose to quote the entire message you are replying to.
A better approach is to quote a small portion of the original
text, just enough to remind the reader what you are replying 
to. 

For replying in a public forum, it rarely makes sense to quote
more than a few sentences because it's so easy to scroll back 
up the thread if the reader needs to see the original message. 
Excess quoting only adds clutter that all readers of a thread
have to scroll through so it should be avoided.

About the only time it makes sense to quote an entire message 
is in Email, but only under certain conditions! See next 
section on Jeopardy Quoting style. 

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DECIDE WHETHER TO USE QUOTED TEXT 
OR NO QUOTED TEXT

* When replying, you have to determine whether it's best to
use quoted text or NOT to use quoted text at all. Quoted 
text is most useful when you are having an on going dialog
with the recipient and knowing what was previously stated 
is beneficial to the reader and relevant to your reply. 

If what you are saying in your reply is factual information
or information that stands on it's own and is not part of a 
continuing dialog, it might be best to NOT use a quoted reply.
Just provide the facts with a brief comment or heading 
preceding the those facts to help the reader understand what
the facts pertain to. 

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AVOID "JEOPARDY" QUOTING

TIP: For public forums, avoid replying in the style referred 
to as "Top-Posting" or "Jeopardy-Posts". It's named "Jeopardy", 
because the answer (reply) comes before the question (quote). 
In other words, your reply comes first and the quoted text is
below your reply. When reading through a thread of messages,
it is counter productive to read a reply first and then have
to scroll way down to the quoted text below to try to figure
out what the reply was referring to. It is much better when 
a brief portion of the original text appears first and the
reply follows. 

For public forums, it's better to not quote at all than to 
use "Jeopardy" style quotes. The reader can simply scroll 
backwards in the thread if they need to know what was 
previously stated. 

On the other hand, with Email, you can't do scroll back to
the previous Email and that's why "Jeopardy" style quotes
 are more suitable for Email; but only certain types of Email. 
"Jeopardy" style quotes are more suitable for Email 
communications such as tech support when a full record of
the past communications is beneficial. 

As a general rule, avoid "Jeopardy" style quotes!

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USE MORE EFFECTIVE QUOTING STYLES

* Email and public forums provide an opportunity for you to 
reply with a quote that reminds the reader what you are
replying to. Below are some tips related to quoting styles
that will make your reply easier on the eyes and easier to
follow while increasing comprehension for the reader as well
as getting your point across more efficiently.

TIP: FOR EMAIL - When replying in a quoted text fashion, 
make a your reply stand out more by using 2 blank lines under 
your reply. This will clearly set one quote/reply apart from 
the next one. It also allows the reader to scroll through a long
message at a fast pace and still be able to locate a particular
issue.

TIP: FOR EMAIL - When replying in a quoted text fashion,
make a your reply stand out more clearly by using a different
 color font than the quoted text. This tip applies more to Email
 than to posting in a public forum. Colored text might actually 
annoy people in a public forum because each member might use
 a different color of their preference and it would become 
confusing and probably look horrible too. 

TIP: FOR EMAIL - Place a few unique characters (ex: ------ ) 
as a marker, just under the quoted text, to indicate that your 
reply begins "here" in reference to the quoted text above. 
This allows the reader to easily identify all your replies and 
not waste time reading through the quoted text. 

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MAKING CHANGES TO A BLOCK OF TEXT VIA EMAIL

* Many times people will use Email to pass a block of text
back and forth in order to review and make changes to the 
text. This often presents a problem where it's difficult 
to determine exactly what changes were made.

TIP: When making changes on the wording of any text, highlight
the changes you made by using a red font. If it helps to get
your point across about what was deleted, you can format the
text you removed by using the "strike through" font as an
indication of what was in the original text but is now 
deleted. If the changes you made are extensive, it's easier
to list the original text and the new text separately and 
precede each with a "CHANGE FROM:" or a "CHANGE TO:" 
label, accordingly.

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FORMAT YOUR MESSAGE FOR BETTER 
READING COMPREHENSION 

* Email word processors allow you to type continuously and 
they automatically wrap the text at the end of each line. 
However, when the recipient receives your message each line
of text can be over 100 characters in length depending upon
the size of their monitor and window size. This makes reading
and comprehension of the text more difficult as well as 
fatiguing because it's hard to locate the next line of text 
when your eyes have to move from right to left across so many
characters. The reader can easily lose their place in the text 
or become distracted due to having to concentrate too much on
the process of locating the next line and there will be a 
significant loss of comprehension to what you have written.

Tip: To improve the readability of your messages, use the 
ENTER key at the end of each line to force your text to be 
60 characters or less per line. This requires more effort
on the part of the writer, but it pays off when the reader 
achieves a greater comprehension of what you have written
and is less fatigued in the process.

TIP: For similar reasons as stated above, avoid writing
massive blocks of text with no line breaks. Instead, breakup
your text into short paragraphs with a blank line between 
them when several points or issues are being addressed 
within that large block of text. In other words, use your 
ENTER key often!

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USE BULLETED TEXT AND 2 BLANK LINES 
TO HIGHLIGHT ISSUES

TIP: To make it easy for the reader to scroll through a 
long message to pick out the various issues within, use a 
combination of asterisk (*) as paragraph bullets and 1 or
2 blank lines to mark and separate each issue. A good 
example of this technique is this message you are reading 
now. When text is formatted in this manner you can scroll
through very long messages at very high speeds and still 
locate what you are looking for. 

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USE BLOCK TEXT AND 1 BLANK LINE 
AFTER EACH PARAGRAPH

* When they format text for newspapers or newsletter that 
get printed they have the difficult task of squeezing as 
much text as possible into the limited space of a page. 
To do so, and to make it readable, and easy on the eyes, 
they use indentation on paragraphs with no blank lines 
between them. However, this all changes with computerized 
text because there is no dire need to save vertical space.
Plus fact that we scroll vertically on a monitor screen, it
presents a new challenge where it can be hard on the eyes
and become fatiguing to read long messages that have the 
paragraphs all squeezed together with no blank lines 
between them.

TIP: With computerized text where the reader scrolls to 
read, it's best to use 1 blank line between paragraphs 
and no indentation. Use 2 blank lines if you want to 
stress that a different topic or issue has begun.

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FOR CLARITY AVOID EXCESSIVE USE OF PRONOUNS 

TIP: To ensure you get your point across, be extra careful 
when using pronouns such as I, we, them, this, that, it,
those, etc..  Pronouns are often used to refer to a 
person or object without having to type out who or what 
the person or object is. Excessive use of pronouns is often
the sign of a lazy writer who avoids typing details.
Excessive use of pronouns can also lead to confusion or 
miscommunication when the reader makes a connection to 
the wrong person or object. The solution is to avoid 
using pronouns and spell things out in more detail. 
See the examples below.

POOR USE OF PRONOUNS CAN CAUSE CONFUSION
Example: In *that* diagram *it* shows the improper method
for assembling a bicycle. In *this* diagram it 
shows the correct method.

Same paragraph as above, 
but eliminating the pronouns:
Example: In the diagram above, the top section shows 
the improper method for assembling a bicycle. In the
diagram of page 21, the center section shows the 
correct method.

TIP: With all that said, whenever you are writing and you
use a pronoun, pause for a moment and think. Determine
whether you need to remove the pronoun and replace it
with a more detailed description of what you are 
referring to.

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RESPONDING TO MULTIPLE REQUESTS 
FOR INFORMATION VIA EMAIL

TIP: When responding to an Email request for multiple pieces 
of information, it's often better to gather all the requested
information, organize it, and send it as a reply using a single 
Email message, as opposed to sending multiple Emails that 
contain smaller bits of information that could be potentially
lost or overlooked amongst all the other Email messages in the
recipients Inbox.

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FOR MAXIMUM EFFICIENCY, LEARN A FEW SHORT-CUT KEYS 

TIP: The shortcut keys below are essential for editing text. 
It's often much more efficient and provides more control when
you use shortcut keys instead of the mouse. The following 
shortcut keys will work in just about any Windows based 
text editing application or text box.

Out of all the shortcut keys in the universe, the ones below
are the most important ones that every computer user who edits
text can benefit by. Take the time to learn these and in no 
time they will become second nature. 

* CTRL + C

Highlight the desired text and use CTRL + C to COPY it
to the clipboard (Clipboard is like storing to memory).


* CTRL + V

Move cursor to desired location and use CTRL + V to paste
the text that is previously stored in the clipboard.


* CTRL + X

Highlight the desired text and use CTRL + C to CUT it
and store it to the clipboard (Clipboard is like storing
to memory). This is different from CTRL + C because it
actually removes the selected text from it's original
location. 


* CTRL + HOME or END

This immediately moves you to either the top of the document 
(CTRL + HOME), or the bottom of the document (CTRL + END).


* SHIFT + PageUp or PageDown

Place the cursor to the desired starting point, then use
SHIFT + PageDown to highlight whole screens of text going
down screen by screen. You can do the same by working
upwards using CTRL + PageUp.


* SHIFT + any of the arrow keys

Place the cursor to the desired starting point, then use
SHIFT + any of the arrow keys to highlight characters or
words or entire lines of text.
 

* SHIFT + HOME or END

Place the cursor to the desired starting point, then use
SHIFT + HOME to highlight characters to the beginning of 
a line. Use SHIFT + END to highlight characters to the END
of a line.


* SHIFT + CTRL + END

Place the cursor to the desired starting point, then use
SHIFT + CTRL + END to highlight everything to the end of
the page. 

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Happy & Safe Computing!
 Any questions? 
---pete---

   
HIGH TECH HANDYMAN 609-291-1119
 


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