[svlug] Convincing Rationale URL for Old Man to Shorten Email Line Length?

Karsten M. Self kmself at ix.netcom.com
Mon Jun 4 21:08:07 PDT 2001

on Tue, May 29, 2001 at 02:38:35PM -0700, Joe Brenner (doom at kzsu.stanford.edu) wrote:
> "Karsten M. Self" <kmself at ix.netcom.com> wrote:

> > This RFC is advisory only.  I find the 65 limit to be a tad short,
> > and prefer a 72 character line length myself, as this provides for
> > four generations of quoting with a prefixed '> ' without hitting the
> > 80 character limit.  65 characters allows up to eight generations of
> > quoting, but most people would find this an excessive amount.
> I've never really understood the attitude that you must use every
> available column.  The reason that a tight right margin is good is
> that it improves readability, which is pretty much been accepted in
> the print media world for ages.  Take a look at an old business
> style-guide for typewritten letters some time... typing from one edge
> of the paper to the other has always been frowned upon, but for some
> reason net geeks have never gotten this point. 

Margins in typewritten documents were maintained for several reasons,
legibility being one, but marginalia (literally:  writing in the
margins) being another -- paper is a medium which allows notation
directictly on the medium itself, in its orginal form, rather unlike
virtually all common forms of electronic communications.  

Though rough analogs of handwritten notation have been proposed (many
times, it's a wheel computer types are particularly fond of
reinventing), most direct analogs fail miserably, and have failed to
gain widespread acceptance (cf:  many groupware apps, annotation modes
in several word processors, etc.).  One of my favorite lines from Usenet
was something to the extent "there's no way to scribble in the margins
of the Internet", to which the response was "you just did".  Quoting 

notations are themselves a rather effective form of translating the
concept of marginalia from the paper world do the electronic one.  I
mean, who in his right mind would copy verbatim large blocks of a paper
letter into a written reply?  But it's second nature in electronic form.
So much so that we have to contrive arbitrary rules for restricting the
practice as good form.

As for not using the full width of an email for text, I'm known to
reformat text wider or narrower, as necessary, to hit the 72 column
sweet spot.  Might even have done same recently.

> I used to complain about this sometimes, but we've got much bigger
> problems now.

The advantage of having small problems, even if they're not ultimately
resolveable, is that they're not overwhelming.  This of itself is a good
thing, sometimes ;-)

Karsten M. Self <kmself at ix.netcom.com>    http://kmself.home.netcom.com/
 What part of "Gestalt" don't you understand?       There is no K5 cabal
  http://gestalt-system.sourceforge.net/         http://www.kuro5hin.org
   Disclaimer:          http://www.goldmark.org/jeff/stupid-disclaimers/
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