I’ve picked up a fair number of conventions over the years … notations, ways of writing things to make the type of thing that I’m writing clear. Most of these I’ve picked up from others, some are my own. Here are a few of them:
- Novel titles are written in ALL CAPS
You write novels this way to make it clear that it’s a BOOK you’re talking about, dag nab it. Examples: FROST MOON, ATLAS SHRUGGED, ULYSSES. I picked up this convention from my publisher, Bell Bridge Books.
- Search queries are written in [square brackets]
You write search queries this way, rather than with quotes, because quotes can appear in search queries. Examples: [frost moon], ["frost moon"] – note the results are not the same. I picked up this convention from The Search Engine That Starts With a G.
- Command line text is indented in a special format where the prompt is bold, the command is bold italic, and the command response is plain text.
This last one takes more explanation (and breaking out of the unordered list to overcome WordPress CSS theme issues). When including command line responses in email, you indent the entire excerpt to set it apart from your message, then put the command prompt in bold, the command in bold italic, and its response in plain text, like so:
centaur@mobile (Sat Jul 24, 00:44:54)  ~:
$ imagelink comicon-2010-01.jpg san diego comicon 2010
<a href=”http://www.dresan.com/images/comicon-2010-01.jpg” alt=”san diego comicon 2010″><img src=”http://www.dresan.com/images/comicon-2010-01.jpg” alt=”san diego comicon 2010″ border=”0″ width=”600″ /></a>
Some WordPress or theme weirdness is making this formatting a little harder than it is in Gmail. I think this is fixed to the point that you should be able to see that the “informational” part of the prompt (when the command was executed) appears on its own line, with a colon and line break to separate it from the command proper. The command proper is prefixed by a dollar sign, a UNIX standard that distinguishes it from the response text that follows. This communicates and distinguishes when you did it, what you did, and what you got.
This one is mine. I’ve been developing this convention over the years as a way of communicating results from the command line in email. I have to admit, this is driven in part by a bit of egoism: I want people to know that the results I’m sending them can be done in one line of Bash, Sed and (g)AWK. And the remaining part is, I want people to learn that yes, they too can in a minute do immense amounts of computation with Bash, Sed and AWK.
That’s all for now. Next time: why the Einstein summation notation is cool.