Formatting msgs here LO17477

Edward T.H. Huang (
Fri, 20 Mar 1998 13:59:38 +0800

Replying to LO17464 --

Ray Harrell wrote:

>Although I agree with Edward about the issue of one idea per paragraph, I
>don't see how most serious ideas can be truly explored in five lines. At
>least I've have never been able to do it. I use the rule that it must be
>enough to express the idea and no more. But it must be enough. Five
>lines seems more like sound bites to me. REH

Thanks Ray, for your comments on my remark that paragraphs be limited to
one theme and be "in my opinion not more than 5 lines". After I wrote that
comment and sent it off into the ether, it occurred to me that I should
have qualified my statement.

My qualified statement then, is that for email and for correspondence on
the internet, one should endeavour to limit the width (No.of characters)
and depth of paragraphs ( No. of lines) to that which the eye can scan on
a screen- visual bites (bytes) if you like. Reading a computer screen is a
lot more difficult than reading a hard copy. On a piece of paper, the
white space and the number of lines per paragraph is not so critical .

Furthermore, the typed material often tends to get scrambled in the
process of transmission, mashing up the formatting of carefully arranged
layouts. The fact that a computer screen is limited in size and that one
must scroll down the screen to read the information is all the more reason
why, again in my opinion, material be limited to visual bytes.

Although 5 lines is my personal optimum , the information conveyed in a 5
line paragraph is obviously also determined by the number of words per
line. At the time of writing this letter, the number of words per line is
on average about 20 words. The process of transmission more often than not
reduces the number of words per line and hence increases the number of
lines per paragraph. Hence my "5-line" suggestion is not a hard and fast
rule. But at the moment of typing this, my screen displays the format as
how I wish to see it.

Again, I should qualify by what I mean by the theme of a paragaraph. This
letter has a theme, viz the use of white space and suitable paragraphing
for reader convenience. But where I change tack, or develop my theme or
argument, I endeavour to make a new paragraph for each change. Hence a
theme is not necessarily limited to a paragraph.

Often when sending information, before sending it to the addressee, I send
it to myself first to see how much unformatting has occurred. If
necessary, changes to the format are made, making allowances for any
scrambling. until I am satisfied that the addresse will receive it in an
acceptable`I would wish to see it (using UK and not American

The increase use of white space also reduces eye strain which is inherent
in this medium of communication. This,. I failed to mention in my original
comment on limiting the number of lines per paragraph. These days with an
ever increasing mass of information on line and more demands on ones time,
it is important to get the gist of what is being addressed. Thus, one can
either consign email such as this to the rubbish bin or save it for
further thoughtful perusal..

Regrettably, reading information on screen is not as easy or pleasurable
as reading a book, with attendant neck strain as well as eye strain. The
amount of information that can be displayed on the screen is already
considerably reduced by the Header of; address, date, subject etc This
reduction in actual sender information space, together with having to
scroll down a screen which is an unconscious irritation, makes for losing
the thread of any argument. Scrolling a screen is not as convenient as
flipping back a page or two in a book.

Hence again my plea for those writing on the Internet to endeavour to make
their material easier to assimilate as well as 'more comfortable' in the
process of so doing. I trust that the foregoing has not given visual
constipation or visual indugestion.



"Edward T.H. Huang" <>

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