Category : Information about the Internet from the early 1990's
Archive   : USEGATE.ZIP
Filename : USENET.STY

Output of file : USENET.STY contained in archive : USEGATE.ZIP
From pacbell!ames!nrl-cmf!ukma!rutgers!gatech!purdue!spaf Sun Jan 1 15:18:42 PST 1989
Article 354 of news.announce.newusers:
Path: hoptoad!pacbell!ames!nrl-cmf!ukma!rutgers!gatech!purdue!spaf
>From: [email protected] (Gene Spafford)
Newsgroups: news.announce.newusers
Subject: Hints on writing style for Usenet (Updated: 10 October 1988)
Message-ID: <[email protected]>
Date: 30 Dec 88 17:48:22 GMT
Expires: 30 Mar 89 17:48:21 GMT
Organization: Dept. of Computer Sciences, Purdue Univ.
Lines: 95
Approved: [email protected]
Supersedes: <[email protected]>

Original-from: [email protected] (A. Jeff Offutt VI)
[Most recent change: 10 October 1988 by [email protected] (Larry Geary)]

I would like to take a moment to share some of my knowledge of writing
style. If you read the suggestions below, remember: it's easy to agree
that they make sense but it's much harder to apply them.

Cunningham and Pearsall, "How to Write For the World of Work"
Strunk & White, "Elements of Style"

The above references are both excellent books. Cunningham is a
standard in tech writing classes and won an award for the best tech
writing book from the Association for Teaching of Technical Writing. I
was lucky enough to take a class from him as an undergraduate. Strunk
is a standard in college composition classes. Other ideas here come
from my own experience on the net and hints from other people.

This is a "long article." The rest of it is simply a list of pointers.

Writing style:

* Write *below* the readers' reading level. The avg. person in the US
reads at a 5th grade level (11 years of age). The avg. professional
reads at about the 12th grade level (18 years of age).

* Keep paragraphs short and sweet. Keep sentences shorter and sweeter.
This means "concise," not cryptic.

* White space is not wasted space -- it greatly improves clarity.
A blank line only adds a byte to the article length, so don't be
stingy if it will help make your meaning clearer.

* Pick your words to have only *one* meaning. Vagueness is considered
artistic by literary critics. We are not being literary here.

* People can only grasp about seven things at once. This means ideas in a
paragraph, major sections, etc..

* Avoid abbreviations and acronyms, if possible, and define the ones
you use.

* There are several variations on any one sentence. A passive, questioning
or negative sentence takes longer to read.

Net style:

* Subtlety is not communicated well in written form - especially over a

* The above applies to humor as well. (rec.humor, of course, not included.)

* When being especially "flame-boyant", I find it helpful to go to the bathroom
before actually sending. Then, I often change the tone considerably. 🙂
Take a break before posting something in anger or that might hurt or
anger others.

* Subject lines should be used very carefully. How much time have you
wasted reading articles with a misleading subject line? The "Subject:"
header line can be edited in all the various posting programs
(as can the "Distribution:", "Newsgroups:" and "Followup-To:" header

* References need to be made. When you answer mail, you have the original
message fresh in your mind. When I receive your answer, I don't.

* It's *much* easier to read a mixture of upper and lower case letters.

* Leaving out articles (such as "the," "a," "an," etc.) for "brevity"
mangles the meaning of your sentences and takes longer to read. It saves
you time at the expense of your reader.

* Be careful of contextual meanings of words. For instance, I used "articles"
just now. In the context of netnews, it has a different meaning than I

* Make an effort to spell words correctly. Obvious misspellings are
jarring and distract the reader. Every news posting program allows
you to edit your article before posting, and most systems have some
kind of spelling checker program that you can use on your article.

* Remember - this is an international network.

* Remember - your future employers may be reading your articles.

'Nuff said.

These suggestions are all easily supported by arguments and research.
There's a lot more to say, but....
Gene Spafford
NSF/Purdue/U of Florida Software Engineering Research Center,
Dept. of Computer Sciences, Purdue University, W. Lafayette IN 47907-2004
Internet: [email protected] uucp: ...!{decwrl,gatech,ucbvax}!purdue!spaf

  3 Responses to “Category : Information about the Internet from the early 1990's
Archive   : USEGATE.ZIP
Filename : USENET.STY

  1. Very nice! Thank you for this wonderful archive. I wonder why I found it only now. Long live the BBS file archives!

  2. This is so awesome! 😀 I’d be cool if you could download an entire archive of this at once, though.

  3. But one thing that puzzles me is the “mtswslnkmcjklsdlsbdmMICROSOFT” string. There is an article about it here. It is definitely worth a read: