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Email Formatting
for the Internet Writing Workshop

Plain Text is like a magic mirror for email--when you use it, you look good.

Most email messages contain hidden formatting characters: accented letters, symbols, and equals signs, all in a jumble. In person-to-person emails, these characters usually stay hidden, but when you send to our workshop's Listserv program, they may come out of hiding.

There are two steps to fix the problem: 1) clean submissions, etc. from your word processing program, and 2) have your email program send all workshop email in plain text.

Both steps are needed for posts to critiquing lists (like Novels-L, Fiction, etc.). Posts to discussion lists (such as the Writing list) are not as critical so long as your email program sends in plain text.

STEP 1: Convert text from your word-processor:
Select and copy text from your word-processor, then paste it into the Jonathan Hedley cleaner, below. Then paste cleaned text into your email's sending screen.

Click this link: http://jonathanhedley.com/articles/2008/03/convert-microsoft-word-to-plain-text, (or equivalently, http://tinyurl.com/6jvl2h).

There you'll see two data-entry boxes, one above the other:

  • In the top box, you paste your text as copied directly from your word processor.
  • Click the "Clean" button below the lower box. This causes the corrected plain text to appear in the lower box.
  • Select all of the text in the lower box, copy it, and paste it into your email for submission to the workshop.

If your post is created by typing into your email program, you don't need to use the JonathanHedley cleaner.

( Do not use Microsoft's Notepad to convert to plain text. It does not convert smart quotes or accented characters.)

STEP 2: Make your email program send in Plain Text:
Below are links to instructions from about.com.

AIM or AOL Mail: AIM  or  http://tinyurl.com/297a4rd
Eudora:                  http://email.about.com/od/eudoratips/qt/et090406.htm     
Fastmail:                http://email.about.com/od/fastmailtips/qt/et091606.htm
Gmail:                    http://email.about.com/od/gmailtips/qt/et122706.htm
Hotmail:                 http://email.about.com/od/hotmailtips/qt/et_plain_text.htm
Incredimail:            http://email.about.com/cs/incredimailtips/qt/et080301.htm
Mac Eudora:           http://email.about.com/od/eudoratips/qt/et090406.htm
Mac Mail:               http://email.about.com/od/macosxmailtips/qt/et082703.htm
Outlook                   http://email.about.com/cs/outlooktips/qt/et070203.htm
Outlook Express:    http://email.about.com/cs/oetipstricks/qt/et082301.htm
Pegasus:                  http://email.about.com/od/pegasusmailtips/qt/et080704.htm
Thunderbird:           http://email.about.com/s/mozillatips/qt/et070403.htm   (Mozilla)
Yahoo:                    http://email.about.com/od/yahoomailtips/qt/et_plain_text.htm
Linux Evolution:     http://email.about.com/cs/evolutiontips/qt/et070303.htm

If your email program is not in this list, do a Google or other search for plain text for your current email program.

Useful to know:

  • Workshop email received in Digests format will show more unwanted formatting characters than will regular Mail format. You can find instructions for changing your Digests/Mail settings at http://www.internetwritingworkshop.org/. In the menu on the left, click "Listserv Settings."

  • The Hedley cleaning process above only works on text having hidden formatting characters. If an email shows visible formatting characters, it will not remove them.