Oregon Birders On-line e-mail style guide

The following are recommended style guidelines for posting to OBOL.  The only two that are really important to follow are those regarding HTML messages and attachments, both of which mess up the digest version of OBOL and are likely to solicit grumpiness from other members.  The other guidelines will help you to communicate with others more efficiently.

Mailer settings-
Set your mailer to plain text for out going mail (not HTML) and fixed width (Courier is the most common fixed width font).  Although this is not the problem it used to be, not all mailers or mail services handle the fancy html stuff.  The web-based OBOL digest at http://birdingonthe.net will discard email in html format. Columniated lists sent over the Internet look better in fixed width, plain text.

Don't send any kind of attachment...EVER, including those business card things or confirmation requests.  If you have a photograph you would like to share, place it on a web page and give the URL address in your message (do not send as an attached webpage, either).

Reporting what you see-
There are two generally clear ways to report species seen during an outing.  The first is to write a narrative.  By convention, species reported in a narrative paragraph should be written in ALL CAPITAL LETTERS.    This allows the reader to quickly scan the report for species of particular interest.  Not every member of OBOL has equal interest in the number of HOUSE FINCHES that are coming to a particular feeder or the number of FOX SPARROW subspecies coming to a particular blackberry bush and an all capital letter format for species gives the reader a way of selecting those parts of a report that are of interest.

A second way to report species seen is to create a list.   Simple lists can be written at the end of a narrative.  It is reasonably easy to cut and paste these from a spreadsheet or database.  Lists can be automatically generated through the http://birdnotes.net  website.  Birdnotes will archive the list for future reference and there is an option to send the list directly to OBOL.  Alternatively, the Birdnotes list can be  e-mailed to you for cutting and pasting into narrative and list edited by you.

Use of abbreviations-
When reporting a species on OBOL always write out the entire common name.  Do not use abbreviations, even the standardize
4-code abbreviations.  Not everyone is able to easily decode abbreviations and it is unrealistic to expect everyone to learn them. Different governmental agencies have different "official" 4-codes and while most of the codes match, there are some significant differences.  Many people who use 4-codes also use the wrong ones.  For example, CEDAR WAXWING is not CEWA, because it would conflict with CERULEAN WARBLER.  The correct codes are CEDW and CERW respectively.  Sending a report using CEWA might cause some people undue consternation.

Abbreviations for place names are also problematic.  While those who regularly receive posts from OBOL probably know that SJCR is the short-hand for South Jetty of the Columbia River and BSNWR is Baskett Slough National Wildlife Refuge, those monitoring OBOL from outside the State may not.  Locations should be clearly stated at least once in any post.

Common spelling errors-
Spelling errors do not really interfere with the communication of information over the Internet.  It is recommended that any post be spell checked before being sent, but polite readers are (presumably) bound by list group etiquette to confer considerable latitude in typographical error and misspellings.

There are, however, several regularly occurring errors that bother some people which will not be caught by a spell checker.

Steller's Jay (not Stellar or Stellar's) after Wilhelm Steller, German naturalist.
Canada Goose (not Canadian Goose) named after the country.
American Wigeon (not widgeon), there is no "d" in wigeon (and you're really showing your age if you keep putting one in).
Semipalmated (not Semi-palmated, no matter what your spell-checker says).
Rhinoceros Auklet (not Rhinocerous) from the Greek "rhinokeros" or nose-horn.
Peregrine (not Pergrine or Peregrin).
Savannah Sparrow (not Savanna) - According to the Dictionary of American Bird Names (Choate 1985), this species is named after the town of Savannah, GA and should end in an "h".

Recommended subject lines-
It is useful to include some indication of e-mail content in the subject line.  General content headings may help some readers decide whether to open an e-mail or not.  It is recommended that subject lines for e-mail about birds seen contain at least location, date and, when applicable, any bird or birds that deserve particular attention.

Some standard subject headings-
RBA: rare bird alert
Local RBA: special interest to a region though not generally rare
RFI: request for information
FWD: forwarded message
Census Count:

Any post to OBOL should be signed with the poster's first and last name, the city or region the poster calls home and an e-mail address.  Most mailer programs have the capacity to automatically include a signature.  Youth Birders (generally defined as birders under 25) may want to consider including their age so they can link up other young observers.  The addition of pithy taglines and/or quotes is optional.

revised 10/05/2002