Berkeley Parents Network >
Help & Frequently Asked Questions >
BPN newsletters are mailed as plain text (ASCII). This means that only
the characters available on an old-fashioned typewriter will
be properly displayed in the BPN newsletters. If you post a
message to BPN that includes non-ASCII characters such as bullets,
or formatting such as boldface, results are
unpredictable. Your characters/symbols may not show up at all, or they may be
displayed as question marks or other strange symbols.
For this reason, we do not recommend
Copy-pasting a message from another document,
because formatting and non-ascii characters will be introduced into your BPN
Examples of characters and formatting that you should not use
- Bullets and other symbols such as copyright and trademark symbols
- Diacritical marks (accent marks and other pronunciation
symbols for non-English languages)
- Formatting such as italics,
boldface, colored text, fonts
As explained above,
BPN newsletters are prepared in plain text only.
For best results,
type your message directly into the BPN posting form. Do not
paste in a message you've copied from Microsoft Word or any other application
that allows you to format text.
Formatted text includes different fonts, sizes, colors, bullets, etc.
which will not be recognized by the BPN posting system.
If you paste
formatted text into the posting forms, results are unpredictable!
Your message will not display in the newsletter the way you intended.
We strongly recommend that you type your message directly into
Note that even if you save your Word document as "plain text",
some formatting and non-ASCII characters
If you must copy-paste, do it from an
application like Notepad that has minimal formatting,
and use very short lines (BPN uses 60 chars/per line).
- Line breaks (carriage returns) from copy-pasted text
may not match line lengths used in the newsletter,
resulting in irregularly broken lines that make
your text look jumbled and hard to read.
- Formatting such as italics,
boldface, colored text, and different fonts and sizes
will not show up in the plain text newsletters.
- Special characters may or may not show up, such as
bullets, copyright and trademark symbols,
and diacritical marks (accent marks and other pronunciation
symbols for non-English languages).
The newsletters are sent in plain text, which recognizes only the
ASCII character set (the set of characters found on a typewriter
Many questions are posted every week that do not receive any responses.
Here are some hints about how to increase your chances of people
replying to your question:
- Remember the demographic. Although all ages
are represented on the BPN list, from many different neighborhoods in
the Bay Area, the majority of subscribers have babies or young children, are
in the age group 25 - 45, and live in the East Bay. We
do not get many responses to questions that this group has little
experience with, such as reviews of San Francisco public schools,
pediatricians in San Jose,
or problems with retirement benefits. [Note that on the Parents of Teens
mailing list, most subscribers are in their 40s and 50s, but again,
most live in the East Bay.]
- Do your research first. Questions that are asked frequently on BPN,
and that are well-documented in the archives, get few if any replies. Examples
of frequently-asked questions include potty training, sleep problems, pediatricians,
dentists, OB/Gyns, therapists, nanny rates, music lessons, swim lessons, tutors,
hair salons, and many house-related services such as painters, plumbers, and electricians.
Research your question on the BPN website first.
There's an excellent chance that you can find what you need on the website.
If you do ask a new question, it
is often helpful to readers to explain in your post why you
didn't find what you need in the archives. Questions that have not come up in
before often receive lots of responses, especially in the Advice newsletter.
- Be specific. Very general questions such as "What's a
good preschool?" rarely get helpful replies.
If you've done your research, and you know your question
has not been addressed in the archive, make sure it is clearly stated and
specific enough to catch
the interest of the busy moms and dads who are reading your post. In the Recommendations
newsletter, we often see multiple responses to fairly specific questions, such
as "Looking for a German-speaking therapist" or "Seeking a great tamale."
- But not too specific.
Asking advice about a topic that is relevant only for you
and one or two other people is unlikely to get responses.
For example, if you ask for reviews of a home-based
daycare that only cares for 6 children, you will probably not
get responses. Those 6 parents may or may not subscribe to BPN,
and if they do, they may not have read the newsletter that
contained your question. Furthermore, as is the case in any group,
most people do not actively participate, they prefer to read, not
- Be concise.
Postings that don't clearly state the question in the
heading or in the first sentence tend to get fewer replies.
Long postings that have too much
detail about what the problem is, or that contain a lot of information that
is not relevant to your question, are unlikely to get a good response.
A post that is a long list of complaints about your child's school,
your spouse, your friends, your friends' kids, etc. may have little
interest for other parents, and it takes time to read and digest.
The people who are reading your question are parents
with very busy lives, just like you. They are unlikely to read three paragraphs
of complaints before they get to your question. They will skip to the
next question. A specific heading is also very important - see the next section
Most readers scan headings in the Table of Contents
to pick which postings they want to read. Few people
read the entire newsletter line by line. Therefore, you
need to put as much information into the heading as you can.
If your heading is not specific enough, people may skip over your post.
|Bad Heading ||Good Heading
|Sleep problem ||10-month-old staying up till midnight
|Potty Training ||4-year-old refuses to use potty at school
|Seeking Music Class ||Seeking Weekend Music class for toddler
|Nanny Share ||Nanny Share M-T-W in Montclair
|Adoption||Good agency for international adoption
- Don't use all-caps (every letter capitalized).
It's too hard to read. It looks like yelling.
Don't do this: NEW MOMMAS' GROUPS STARTING SOON
Do this instead: New Mommas' Groups Starting Soon
- Don't use punctuation symbols to draw attention to
your heading or message. It looks like advertising,
which BPN doesn't accept, and it is annoying to readers.
Don't do this: ~~**~~ !!! AWARD-WINNING MUSIC CLASSES !!!! ~~**~~
Do this instead: Music Classes for Toddlers in El Cerrito
- Don't use tabs or any other kind of formatted
spacing in your posting. Just use the plain old spacebar.
Other kinds of spacing won't be displayed properly.
this page was last updated: Sep 2, 2013
BPN is now a 501(c)(3) non-profit and we are transitioning to a new website during
The opinions and statements expressed on this website
are those of parents who subscribe to the
Berkeley Parents Network.
Disclaimer & Usage for
information about using content on this website.
Copyright © 1996-2015 Berkeley Parents Network