read the posting conventions
(latest voted on: 05/2000)


Archive-name: writing/misc-writing-guide
Posting-Frequency: weekly (Monday) to misc.writing; monthly (3rd Monday) to *.answers
Last-modified: 05/2000

Welcome to the misc.writing newsgroup. This document is intended to help you to understand how the group works, and to get the most out of your participation in it, whether as a reader only or as a contributor.

As you know, Usenet is divided into newsgroups according to subject. Some groups adhere very rigidly to their subject, and you will hardly see anything at all that is "off-topic". Others have evolved from their original charter to allow a wide variety of discussion to take place. Misc.writing is one of the latter groups, and people who come here expecting to see *only* discussion about writing-related matters are sometimes disappointed.

Misc.writing is first and foremost a newsgroup *for* writers, rather than one only *about* writing. And "writers" means anyone with a serious (or even not so serious!) interest in writing. Although there are many professional writers among MW's contributors, participation is by no means limited to professionals. Everyone is welcome.

The group is a forum for writers to discuss matters of interest to them, and it has been described as having a "cocktail party atmosphere". So you may find people discussing politics, computers, the antics of their pets, or just indulging in pleasant exchanges with their on-line friends, in addition to the many and varied writing topics. To those who consider such subjects to be off-topic, which should not be discussed in a writing newsgroup, it should be pointed out that everything posted here is seen through the eyes of a writer, from a writer's point of view, and that it arises from an on-line community of writers.

Many writers also find misc.writing to be a place to relax and unwind after - or during - a hard day at the keyboard. This very important function is perhaps best summed up in the following words of a long-standing member of the MW community, Wendy Chatley Green, in reply to someone who raised an issue about the nature of the newsgroup.


"Let me explain it to you. Writing is a very solitary activity. We sit at computers and craft sentences. Some of us see only pets or office walls all day--not people. Since we work at home and the other members of our families are at school or jobs, there is no one to talk to, no one to interrupt our work, no one to ask us to stop for a cup of coffee or lunch at the local cafe.

We get bored and fusty without companionship; we lose our edge. This is why we love this newsgroup. Pop in and there always is someone to "converse" with. At any time, there are many topics and posts, which give reasons to ignore the boring tech paper, the stalled short story, the percolating but not yet perfect poem. Everyone needs a break and misc.writing provides us one."


The community aspect of misc.writing should not be undervalued, as many real-life friendships have arisen through people exchanging opinions in this newsgroup. Real life meetings known as "wrevels" are frequently held all over the world, and newsgroup participants have a great chance to meet and get to know the people behind the posts. It is therefore not helpful to demand that a group of participants, many of whom have known each other for several years, *only* discuss one subject, or refrain from discussing another subject. It is very easy to ignore a thread in most newsreaders, or even in extreme cases to message filter (killfile) a person whose posts you do not enjoy reading. It's far better to do that than to attempt to change the behaviour of others.

Some people find it helpful to use what are known as "tags" to make it easier for readers to find certain kinds of posts in which they are either specially interested, or which they want to avoid. These tags are inserted at the beginning of a subject line and are usually enclosed in or [these]. The most commonly used ones are:

[WR] Writing related

[OT] Off topic

[URL] A useful Web link for writers

[MWV] MiscWritingVille (see below)

Someone not interested in posts which are not writing-related, for instance, could skim through the subject headers to look for threads marked WR and only read those threads. Similarly, they could mark threads as read if they contain the OT tag. Use of tags is optional, and they are by no means used by everyone. But if someone wanted to make sure their writing related post was seen by people who only want to read those posts, they could use the WR tag. But please don't think that *only* posts marked WR contain writing information.

The issue of off-topic posts has been addressed, because they are sometimes the subject of complaints by newcomers to the group. But of course, misc.writing is the perfect newsgroup for the posting of any and every kind of article about writing and writing-related matters. You can be absolutely sure that any question you ask about writing will be promptly and intelligently answered. Everyone is encouraged to post any questions they may have and any discussion points they wish to raise about writing. There are writers in the group with a wealth of experience and knowledge, and they are more than willing to share that knowledge and help others in any way they can. That's one of the tremendous assets of this newsgroup.

Here are a few more tips to make your participation in misc.writing more fruitful. Although writers may discuss a variety of topics of interest to them in the newsgroup, there are still some rules to make things run smoothly and to make participation a positive experience for as many people as possible. Please note that misc.writing is an unmoderated group, and that these rules cannot be enforced except by peer pressure. But also note that they are there for a reason, and that is that the majority of participants want their newsgroup to work that way, and consider that it works most efficiently with those rules in place. These rules are listed in accordance with current usage and a user survey of misc.writing participants carried out in February 2000.

First of all, in common with every other non-binary newsgroup, you are requested not to post binary files to misc.writing. This means files like pictures and executable computer programs, which tend to be very large, and take up too much time to download and to store on news servers. There are special binary groups for such files to be posted, but misc.writing is not one of them.

Also, please don't post in HTML. Although major newsreaders like Outlook Express and Netscape allow people to send HTML to newsgroups, this is still frowned upon by the vast majority of groups. HTML is for the World Wide Web, not Usenet. Make your Web page with it, but leave it out of newsgroups. In any case, many newsreaders cannot read HTML and even those that can will often have that facility turned off by their users. So please post in text only.

Probably the biggest no-no for misc.writing is the posting of work. MW is a discussion forum for writers, not a writers' workshop, and such posts are not welcome. "Work" means things like journalistic articles or short stories which the writer intends to submit for publication, or has written as an exercise, and/or for which he or she seeks comments and criticism. People take part in misc.writing to engage in discussion and conversation with their fellow writers, and not to see a constant deluge of work, some of which may be of dubious quality. Some other writers' newsgroups have no objection to the posting of work. Probably the best of those is news:alt.writing where work and critique is regularly posted. Other possibilities are news:rec.arts.prose and news:alt.skunks (despite the unusual name!)

Sometimes newsgroup regulars will post short fictional or non-fictional vignettes, sketches or articles for the purpose of entertainment or information. These must not be confused with "work", as they are not intended for publication through any other medium, and the writers do not ask for or ever receive any critique.

A long-standing part of the MW community culture is the Misc Writing Ville. This is a fictional virtual community based on the participants of the newsgroup. Not everyone participates in MWV threads, but those who do get a great deal of enjoyment from them.

You can learn more about MWV from the official MW Web site as well as a lot of other fascinating information regarding the history and culture of misc.writing. The web site is also a goldmine of invaluable advice and information for writers.

Misc.writing is not a poetry newsgroup and the posting of poetry is not welcomed. Please don't think that when you see the occasional very short, humorous poem written for entertainment, that the newsgroup will welcome your latest epic ballad. Sorry, but MWers are not interested! There is a plethora of poetry newsgroups in any case, as any quick search will show. Among them are news:rec.arts.poetry news:rec.arts.poems, news:alt.poetry and news:alt.arts.poetry .

Please don't post non-writing related advertisements to misc.writing. This was the only issue on which every single MW participant unanimously agreed in the survey. Such advertisements are highly annoying, and far from promoting your product or service, are more likely to have the exact opposite effect.

The situation regarding writing-related advertisements is not so clear. More people voted against them in the survey, although the vote was close (43% - 36 %, with the remainder expressing no preference). At the very least, this indicates that people should think very carefully before posting such material to misc.writing. If you really feel that the writing community will benefit from your advertisement, then at least refrain from posting it more than once within a suitable time period, say six weeks.

A note to any students out there who might be tempted to try to get their homework done by a writer - don't! The best you will ever get out of a request to do your homework for you (however skilfully disguised it may be), will be a sarcastic remark. And people have been known to mischievously supply those too lazy to do their own homework with deliberately erroneous answers! So please, spare yourselves, and the newsgroup!

Finally, regarding newsgroup etiquette, although there will always be a small minority who seek to provoke needless arguments and post deliberately offensive remarks, please try to ignore them. Misc.writing is a serious newsgroup, not a forum for "flamers" and "trolls". If you consider someone is posting deliberately only to get negative reactions (trolling), it is far better to ignore them than to argue with them. By responding, you are not only giving them exactly what they want - reactions - but you are also making them more important than they actually are.

By all means participate in vigorous discussion in misc.writing. That's what newsgroups are all about. But please try to refrain from such things as personal attacks, or petty nit-picking of others' posts (ie, correction of typos or spelling mistakes). Such posts don't fulfil any useful purpose, and only serve to sour people's relations with each other.

If you make an effort to provide a positive contribution to this newsgroup, the rewards will be manifold. Ask questions, answer them, contribute to debates, join in the community atmosphere. And most importantly of all, remember to have fun!


These guidelines were originally posted by Alexander von Thorn in response to a newcomer's questions regarding misc.writing's conventions. More recently, the duty was performed by M Barnard. Erin Barrett-Hamner and Wendy Chatley Green followed on the duty roster. The current version was created by Richard Kaminski from information gathered by a survey of misc.writing denizens. All suggestions, comments, and criticism should be posted to the misc.writing newsgroup

Join the conversation! Read misc.writing

Search recent misc.writing discussions for:
Search using Google
Search this site or the web powered by FreeFind

Site search Web search


you are here: http://www.internet-resources.com/writers/mwriting/mwpostingguidelines.htm
© Reproduction or other use without permission will trigger unfortunate consequences.
Last updated on 2005-05-20.
Who is Sal Towse?