[Marxism] Formatting (from a lurker)

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Mon Jul 21 06:41:38 MDT 2008

Aaron <aaron at mylists.fastmail.fm>:

 > My email client is Eudora 6.2.3 for Mac. It has the option of
 > automatically hard-wrapping one's text, but I wouldn't think of
 > using it as my default, since this list is the only place I have
 > any complaints about text that doesn't have ugly, semantically
 > meaningless line breaks. About 5 years ago, a comrade complained
 > to me about the problem, but I told him how to set his email program
 > to soft-wrap text in messages he was viewing, and I haven't had a
 > complaint from him or anybody else since!
 > I'm curious, btw, what email client you're using, Louis, since it
 > seems to misbehave when encountering perfectly-correctly-formatted text .
 > But I'll really try to remember to hard-wrap messages I send to this
 > list. Actually doing it isn't hard, since all I have to do is (1)
 > "Select All" and then (2) choose "Wrap Selection" from the Edit menu.

It's not about being able to unwrap the text; any half-wit with access 
to a decent programming language can do that easily.  (Perl was my 
taste, when I whipped up a script to wrap and unwrap.)  Some mail 
clients do it, some don't.  Your mileage may vary.

No, it's about politeness.  There are reasons why a standard is adhered 
to.  It is because, in writing, we wish for others to read.  It is an 
obligation of the author that he make the effort necessary for his work 
to be easily readable.  That an author does not wish to or is not able 
to make such effort is an instant black mark against him, and in some 
instances, sufficient cause to be cast forthwith into the Outer Darkness.

(Short form:  you can write it, but your audience doesn't *have* to read 

There are certain forms, certain sacred commandments that must be 
adhered to.  One of these commandments is that the format of a message 
be determined by the least-capable mail client[1]; since there are 
mailclients out there without the capability of wrapping to 80 columns, 
wrapping text at 80 columns yourself is de rigueur.  72 columns is 
better.  Most mailclients can be set to this standard, and it is wise to 
do so; there are those out there who will consider non-wrapped text an 
immediate "bozo flag" and drop it without even bothering to read it.  On 
the other hand, nobody ever complained about mail that was wrapped 
neatly at 72 columns and arranged in paragraphs.

That you have an option to autowrap is good.  If you must manually wrap 
- something that plagued me on older Macintoshes, I must admit - an easy 
way to do it is to use a fixed-size font, and to create a line in your 
signature that represents the longest line you would wrap at.  In my 
case, the line I chose is 72 columns.  (You can see it at the bottom of 
this message.)  You should be able to see this line as you type; when 
you reach its end, or near enough to it, whack the return key.  This 
makes it difficult to edit, true - editing the length of one line 
requires manually re-wrapping the whole paragraph - but if you are 
producing a thought for a large mailing list of other people that is 
valuable enough to read, why not spend the extra minute and make it look 
good too?  And if the thought isn't valuable enough to take the time to 
make it look good, then why bother posting it in the first place?  Think 
of it as a comradely favor you do, if you will, and carry it over into 
all aspects of your life.  Your readers will thank you for the time you 

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