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Discussions >> Tips for Newcomers

The ability to post on this web site ended on May 1, 2003.

You can post effective messages in the discussion forms by following these basic tips. First and foremost, please read the Dialogue Paper and other resources on this Web site, and relate your comments to those materials.

  1. Keep your messages short.
  2. Stay on topic.
  3. Prepare a summary with keywords and place it at the beginning.
  4. Watch for response to your messages.
  5. Consider others' ideas, and relate your messages to them.
  6. Think and compose off-line; communicate on-line.
  7. Be as constructive as possible. If you raise a problem, suggest a solution.

You may post as an individual or as part of an organization. Identify yourself or your group and you are more likely to be taken seriously in our news summaries and in our final report. Please read the Dialogue paper and other resources on this Web site, and relate your comments to those materials.

Effective Practices for Posting

Give your messages clear titles
When you post a new message or a reply, check the subject line to ensure it reflects the content of the message. Label your topics clearly to give readers an idea of what to expect.

Create single-subject messages whenever possible
This makes it easier for people to respond to the original topic. If several issues are raised in one posting, offshoot conversations may start up under the one topic making it harder to dig them out when you need to in the future.

Don't hesitate to start a new topic
If what you want to say doesn't fit into any of the existing topics, start a new one. If you're responding to an existing topic, but your response engenders a new thread of discussion, start a new topic and point people to the new one in your response to the old one.

When replying
Generally, if you want to respond to a topic, it is better to reply than to start with a new topic. This ensures that discussions remain organized and threads of discussions can develop. When in doubt, reply!

Quote selectively
Quoting someone's previously posted text can be helpful when done correctly, but remember: people do not want to read word for word what they have previously read. Replying to a message will create a "thread" that will indicate to participants which message you are responding to. If you still want to include quotes, only repeat enough text to help you build on the original point. If you are responding to more than one area of a message, quote the individual parts of the message you are responding to, and insert you responses right after the quotes - this helps everyone follow your logic.

Edit your replies
When replying to a message, quote only the text required to put your reply in context. Cut-and-paste quotes into new messages. Edit out needless lines in replies and forwarded material.

Re-read your messages
Once a message is sent, it's gone forever. You can't get it back. Your message will become part of the public record. Be sure to re-read your messages before you send them, particularly ones dealing with sensitive issues, to make sure the words you have typed are really communicating what you intend to say. It's easier to make changes before the message leaves your computer, than to make apologies or give explanations.

Don't shout
Typing your messages in ALL CAPITAL LETTERS comes across as SHOUTING on-line. It's also hard on the eyes. Regular sentence case is the norm, although some people tend to the other extreme of all lower case, which also seems generally acceptable.

Watch your language
If your list subscribers don't all speak the same language, avoid using slang or idioms, unless you're prepared to explain them. Also, beware of accented characters as some older software programs cannot recognize them.

Develop tolerance for informality
Messages on-line tend toward informality. Many people choose to write in their own unique mix of upper and lower case characters, and use more free-form punctuation. You'll also notice a lot more spelling mistakes on-line than off-line.

Exercise patience and tolerance for the views of others
Everyone feels strongly about their own point of view. The discussions forums are available for an exchange of viewpoints. Try to stress what you can learn, as much as what you have to teach.

When in doubt, please re-read the Civil Rules that guide all moderation of messages posted to this electronic consultation.

Dr. Liss Jeffrey, with materials from the Canadian classic: From Workplace to Workspace Using Email Lists to Work Together by Maureen James & Liz Rykert (IDRC Books Renouf Publishing Co. Ltd.)