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"Hints to New Posters" has been a regular posting by Chip Pearson for some time now.  It was created upon a need for such information and by a consensus (collective opinion) of many of those who regularly respond to questions posted.  You can see some of the input that went into his posting in the portions of notes posted.  The comments in italics are my own comments and explanations.

In addition to the following you should also look at topics excerpted from the book Netiquette by Virginia Shea «, and the Netiquette page on Yahoo.  At follow the link to Netiquette.

Rules of Conduct for Posting to the Microsoft Peer-to-Peer Newsgroups.

After reading about our posting rules compare them to some others, you will see that not all groups have the same feelings.  Some we failed to include.  Some don't apply anymore like viewing on 80-byte screensizes.  Some groups prefer offline email for replies, with the requestor obliged to post a summary.  This leads to only the requestor becoming an expert or at least enlightened.  Also I don't think D.e.j.a .. News was around in 1994.  A Primer on How to Work With the USENET Community.  One common thread is to try keep posting sizes down.  Here is a RAND Report, Toward an Ethics and Etiquette for Electronic Mail, July 1985.

Basically to ask for help or to report a problem you have to be able to reproduce exactly what you did.  You have to be able to be able to put exactly what you did into words with correct terminology as much as possible so that we can understand you -- the [\?] button can help with this.

Subject: Hints For New Posters

              Chip Pearson's current list of Hints for New Posters can be found at or viewed from Chip Pearson's Excel Pages.        

From:         chpearson... (Chip Pearson)
Date:         1998/01/08
Newsgroups:   microsoft.public.excel.misc,

Suggestions for people posting to the Excel Newsgroups for the first time: I've been reading and responding to the Excel newsgroups for quite a while, and would like to make the following suggestions for persons posting here for the first time.  (Long-timers can help me out here):

1) Use an illustrative subject line.  Don't put in a subject line like "HELP ME!" or "EXCEL Question."
Instead, say something like "Trouble With Pivot Tables In XL97". 

Don't use meaningless words in the Subject
 emergency     unless shutting down means losing data it probably isn't.
 Excel       meaningless in the subject of an Excel newsgroup
 Help       everybody with a question is looking for help
 Macro     just means you haven't found the programming newsgroup yet
 My Boss don't care about your boss
 My Job  is on the line,    how did it come down to that, don't want to know
 Please   meaningless in a subject description
 Questionalmost all threads begin with a question so the word adds nothing
 testing     post the question, don't waste people's time and bandwidth with nonsense
 urgent    everybody with a question is looking for help
Use the subject line to properly identify the problem.  Single words are not adequate.  Misleading subject lines make it difficult to locate your question again when we can answer it.  It is also frustrating to answer a question only to see that part of the description was contained only in the subject line.  So make sure that the subject line matches the question.  According to some guidelines the subject line should not exceed 40 characters and be aware that as threads become deeper it will not be as easy to see the words on the right end.  Though depending on the font and the specific mix of characters 55 characters may not be unreasonable. 

There are so many postings that many people just scan the titles to see if it is something they know about (or want to know about) otherwise they may skip it.

If you want credit for what you post, and want to be addressed by your name, use your name.  Just like you would use your name professionally and with friends.  Silly names, theatrical names, and partial names will not get the same respect and recognition in the newsgroups as someone who stands behind their name and probably would be willing to help others in a newsgroup (any newsgroup).  Anonymous names implies a sense of no responsibility, no respect for others, and no sense of sharing in peer-to-peer newsgroups. 

2) Post in the appropriate group.  There are various microsoft.public.excel groups, for charting, programming, etc.  The crossover may be too great to reverse now, but try to put it in the relevant group. 

Don't cross post.  The people who answer your question generally frequent several groups.  Posting in multiple groups results in duplicated effort without the benefit of previous answers in a thread. 

There are German language newsgroups for spreadsheets see the Spreadsheets FAQ

3) Include example data and formulas in your post.  The more you tell us up front, the easier it is for us to answer you questions. 

Isolate the problem.  The fewer lines involved with the problem the easier it is to answer.  Don't include a 50 line subroutine if you can isolate the problem to a few lines and make a smaller example.

Some dreaded phrases that do not convey what the problem is and are usually used without a clear statement of the problem and what was actually wanted:   "I am having trouble with this working", "This doesn't work", "This gives me the wrong answer", "Excel doesn't work".

Please keep in mind that we are not mind-readers, so please post clear questions.  Don't make us ask Who, When, Why, How, How Much, nor do we want to have to ask you What does it do instead of work?  Failure to post a clear question will almost certainly delay responses, and require additional back and forth postings to clarify the question and answers.

State the problem plain and simple and then give additional information.  Include as appropriate:  Version Excel, Operating system and version, error messages (text only, no attachments), what was expected and what happened instead.

4) State your problem clearly.   Eschew obfuscation.

Avoid confusion or ambiguity.  What you write is what the person answering your question will be working with.

Explain what happened, let us know how you tried to resolve or fix the problem, so that we don't have to ask if you tried something.  Including what did not work will reduce the replies that repeat what you already tried.  Be specific.

Try to phrase your question so someone will not have to ask:  “What did it do instead of working?”.  “What do you mean by working?”.  “How do you know it is not working?”.  “When did problem start?”.  “Can you reduce this to a portion of code that fails?”. 

5) Be VERY specific when reporting error messages that you get.  Don't say "I get an error when I do this."  Post the exact text of the error message, after that is what one would use to search Google.  Exactly what did you do to get the error?  Was it generated by Excel, VBA, or Windows?  Include the text of the entire macro that that caused the problem. 

6) Don't attach a spreadsheet to your message.  If you follow #3-5 , we probably don't need to see an actual spreadsheet. 

Many people can't read your attachments anyway, and many people will suppress any posting that contains an attachment.  Offer to send the example if necessary, or put it somewhere in your web site.  That way others who do not use a browser to read newsgroups will not be forced to download your post even if they have no intention of even looking at your posting.  (Hopefully most people are still reading newsgroups without a browser.)  Even for those who read newsgroups in a browser the attachment is actually brought down to the server (ISP) even if not opened by the user.  This is a terrific waste of bandwidth for a lot of people.

To prevent most attachments from using up valuable space on your own harddrives for several months, one counter measure in Outlook Express is to limit the number of lines allowed in posts received to 350 lines.  Be careful that it does not say 0 lines when you are finished making the rule. 
Apply this rule (Outlook Express) after the message arrives
Where the message is on microsoft.public.excel.misc newsgroup
and Where the number of lines in the message is more than 350 lines
Delete it and Mark it as read
Do the same for programming and for worksheet.functions -- this is about the only means to eliminate postings with attachments.  More hints on using Outlook Express.

7) Tell us what version of Excel and Windows you're using.  We don't want to give you a simple answer that works in XL97 but won't work in XL95. 

      [5.0c] Excel 5.0c,   [XL95] Excel 7a (aka Excel 95),    [XL97] Excel 97,   and  [XL2000] Excel 2000.   Refer to HELP --> About

8) If you're following up to a previous post, you don't need to include everything.  Snip out what's not relevant.  But DO include what IS relevant.  Some people may have missed or have forgotten the original post.

9) Don't send these multi-part MIME messages that have 490 lines of html to send 10 lines of text.  (#mime)

MIME messages are a major annoyance to many if not most people in the group.  Extra characters and lines introduced with MIME can make formulas and text virtually impossible to read.  They also are abusive to newsgroup servers, and archives.  I picked up the following tips from another group (IBM-MAIN) that was having similar problems. 

Recognizing MIME
In the headers, anything like the following with HTML or multipart are a dead giveaway that you have MIME and not just plain/text:

Content-Type: multipart/alternative; boundary=...
This is a multi-part message in MIME format.
Content-Type: text/html; charset="iso-8859-1"

&nbsp;&nbsp; =3D (instead of = sign in formulas)
= or =20 at end of lines

"Content-Type: text/plain" is OK, that is just the MIME standard for "no MIME"., so that this portion at least is not MIME.

If your headers include the following, there is no MIME
Content-Transfer-Encoding: 7bit
Content-Type: text/plain; charset=us-ascii
Turning MIME off in MS OUTLOOK
For Outlook 2000 users, Tools, options, Mail Format (tab),

Properties for microsoft.public.excel.misc by unchecking the "always send to this recipient in MS Exchange Rich Text Format".  You can also change this property in the TO section if you reply using the "REPLY" button.

Turn off MS Word as Auto Editor -- appears to be the solution.

Uncheck "Use Word as The E-mail editor" on the Tools pull down (MS Outlook).

Turning MIME off in Outlook Express
When you are posting, composing email Format menu option should show Plain Text.

On the Outlook Express window
   Tools --> Options --> Send --> Mail Sending Format --> Plain Text
      also [Plain Text] --> Uuencode
   Tools --> Options --> Send --> News Sending Format --> Plain Text
      also [Plain Text] --> Uuencode

Other options on Send: (my own settings)
   (ON*)  Save copy of sent messages in the 'Sent Items' folder
   (OFF)  Send messages immediately (gives me a chance to not post if someone else already did)
   (OFF)  Automatically put people I reply to in my Address Book
   (ON*)  Automatically complete e-mail addresses when composing
   (ON*)  Include message in reply
   (OFFReply to messages using the format in which they were sent.

There is also an entry within Newsgroups.
   Internet accounts --> news --> --> Properties -->
   Advanced --> [x] Ignore news sending format and post using: [x] Plain Text.

In your Address Book when adding entries advise checking the box, always send E-mail in plain text.

After setting your defaults to Plain Text as above, you can still send occasional HTML mail to your friends (do not send HTML mail to Usenet groups), by overriding your default when composing a message as follows: 
 Format --> (choose) Rich Text (HTML), or Plain Text
You can also verify your usage by looking at Format.

You can check/change your defaults for reading plain text Mail
   Tools -->Options --> Fonts --> Medium --> set as Default
      (you can also do Arial as your default there)

To see your posting or email as people who can only read plain text and to see your headers needed to file abuse reports when dealing with SPAM.

With the posting or email item selected:
    File,  Properties,  Details,  Message Source (button)
Some unrelated additional information on using Outlook Express can be seen in

Turning MIME off in Netscape
Netscape Navigator 3.0
Options --> Mail & News preferences --> composition -->
    allow 8-bit
    turn off -- Mime compliant

Netscape Communicator 4.x
Edit --> preferences --> Mail & Groups --> messages -->
    turn off -- by default use HTML messages

An unrelated comment on Netscape.  Back up your bookmarks and keep your version 3 to sort version 4

Additional Comments Related to MIME postings

Configuring Mail Clients to Send Plain ASCII Text «, G.Boyd (

Also:  Microsoft's Knowledge Base has an article, Q138053, which explains what WINMAIL.DAT is and how to disable the attachment of this to E-mail messages.  Specifically for Office 2000 see article Q197064

Q138053 XFOR: Preventing WINMAIL.DAT Sent to Internet Users;en-us;q138053
Q197064 OL2000: (CW) Winmail.dat Attachments Included in Received Messages;en-us;q197064
Anyone having trouble getting these from the MS KB can send an email message to with a subject of Q197064, for instance, and will receive the MS KB article by return mail.

Favorite comment seen on IBM-MAIN relating to MIME: "I would like to see listserv tweaked to bounce back to the sender mime & html messages posted to discussion lists."

Some references to other sites telling how to turn off MIME or RTF (Rich Text Format) 1.  Policies on other issues at other sites may differ from this group, and some adaptation will be necessary on your part to apply instructions to this group such as the groups name.

To test that you are not sending MIME from a newsgroup, send an email reply copy to yourself without replying to the group, and check the headers.  Also check your regular Email by sending email to yourself.

An unrelated problem with Outlook is its journaling.  The journaling feature of Outlook causes Excel to slow down considerably.  The general recommendation in the Excel groups is to turn journaling off. 
In Outlook 97: Tools / Options / Journal / uncheck Microsoft Excel and all other MS Office Products.
In Outlook 98: Tools/Options/Preferences/Journal Options

I hope that no one takes these suggestions to mean that they shouldn't post the Excel newsgroups.  Quite the contrary.  Please, post your questions; we're here to help.  Those of us who respond on a regular basis do so primarily because we enjoy helping the user community, and may learn something for ourselves along the way. 

I wouldn't endeavor to speak for the more senior contributors to the groups (Stephen Bullen, Beth Unglesbee, and Jennifer Campion, feel free to dive in right here), and I encourage (and anticipate) their replies, but I think that new posters should keep these basic guidelines in mind.  I think they will make the groups more productive for all of us. 

Cordially, Chip Pearson

From:         Stephen Bullen <>
Date:         1998/01/08
Newsgroups:   microsoft.public.excel.misc,
Hi Chip

Excellent list, but you forgot the most important:

If YOU know the answer to someone else's question, answer it. 

This is a peer-to-peer group, not users-to-'experts'.  You only get to be an expert (and MVP) by answering questions.  If you think you know the answer, but aren't sure, start your reply with 'I think ...'

My pet hate is people who answer questions with a definitive manner, but a wrong answer. 

My pet like is to see new people helping out and sharing in the community we've built up here. 
Other than that, can you post this once per week, please.  I would also be more than happy to add a page for it on my soon-to-be live web site,


Stephen Bullen Microsoft MVP - Excel

From:         "Jennifer A.  Campion" <>
Date:         1998/01/08
Newsgroups:   microsoft.public.excel.misc,
Chip, you have great timing.  I was just getting ready to put one together.  I especially like #7 - Tell us what version of Excel and Windows you're using.  Also, I have a few things to add:

10) Please don't email your questions directly to us.  There are (hopefully) many people on these newsgroups that will have the answer to your question and you might be helping others who are having the same problem. 

The best part is that someone who is awake may answer your question while you are asleep.  If you converse with one person who is not online or not answering right away your answer may drag on for days.  That's assuming that that one person could have answered your question.

11) First try to find your answer in online Help (press Help or F1 and go from there), be sure to check both using the Index and the Answer Wizard; next try:  and if you are still "stuck" post away. 

The Knowledge Base has articles to solve your problems in a clear concise manner from the professional experts. 

Sometimes you will see RTFM (politely Read The Fine Manual), which has been used by vendor support people as a single word answer to a problem that they believed the customer should be able to determine for themselves from the printed manuals.  The Excel newsgroups are a lot more polite and not under pressure to respond.  Just for the record I didn't find it used in the Microsoft knowledge base.

12) Please don't ask us to email you directly because you can't get back to the newsgroup to check.  Some email all their responses to the original posters (Alan Beban comes to mind), but generally you will find that we don't have the time to email and post the answer. 

And last (and probably the most important),

13) Thank us.  If we have helped you save some time, some hair pulling, some frustration or whatever.....a quick "thank you" is always appreciated.  Remember, that none of us are getting "paid" to do this.  We don't work for MS, we do this to help the Excel community and to help others grow (and to grow ourselves). 

Happy posting.....  -- Jennifer A.  Campion, MCSD, MCT Microsoft MVP - Excel

From:         Robert <>
Date:         1998/01/08
Newsgroups:   microsoft.public.excel.misc,
One more for the list???

#? Check Google Usenet Archives before posting.  The question may have been answered two weeks ago. 


From:         "Jennifer A.  Campion" <>
Date:         1998/01/09
Newsgroups:   microsoft.public.excel.misc,

> Other than that, can you post this once per week, please.  <

I agree, this needs to be posted at least once a week until it "catches" on. 


Some more personal comments

14) If you missed the beginning of the post, use Deja Archives Google Usenet Archives to find the thread, read the original and all of the articles, please don't ask for it to be reposted.  Postings often end up with multiple threads, so you are bound to lose the beginning when you thought something was complete.

"I saw it somewhere" -- That's a pretty good indication that you should have checked Google Usenet Archives and did not.
"This is probably a stupid question" -- There really aren't any stupid questions, but again it probably indicates that you should have checked Google Usenet Archives first and did not.  Of course the better you are at using Google Usenet Archives and search engines the fewer questions you will need to ask.
"I'm sorry if this question has come up before." -- See Google Usenet Archives
"I asked this question once before and misplaced the answer."-- Another definite indication that you should have checked Google Usenet archives and did not.

I have created a document to help you begin your search with Google Usenet Archivesto search the MS Excel newsgroups, and the Microsoft Knowledge Database.  By looking at a whole bunch of answers related to your question you will get a much more comprehensive answer than any single responder could ever accomplish, and probably pick up a couple of more things along the way. 

Please use Spell Check when you post.  Proper spelling will help others find previously posted articles.  Also post with correct capitalizations, posting in all caps, all lowercase, use of the word i without capitalization, and dont instead of don't are all much harder to read. .

Some more items added Feb. 19, 1998 by Chip Pearson and Jennifer Campion

15) Be polite.  Rudeness has never been a problem around here, and let's keep it that way.

16) Try it out.  Before posting a question asking "Will this work?" or "Can I do this in Excel?", try to answer your own question first by testing and using help before posting.  You may be smarter than you think. 

Use your computer to help you that's why you have it.

17) When declaring variables in VBA, use explicit declarations, with explicit types.   Sometimes errors arise from an improperly declared variable in VBA. For example, use

Dim W as Workbook     rather than
Dim W

18) Take a look at the Comp.Apps.Spreadsheets FAQ  [Frequently Asked Questions]   -- FAQ for all spreadsheet software

More FAQ Links.  The best for Excel is probably John Walkenbach's Excel FAQ, but you'd better also check Deborah Dalgleish's FAQ amongst the Tip Index entries

Some more items added March 20, 1998 by Chip Pearson

19) Don't ask more than one or two unrelated questions in the same post.   Of course, you may need to ask more than one question to address a single issue.  Generally, each post should deal with only one problem.

Asking unrelated questions may delay responses until one person can answer all you questions, or you may get only a less important question answered.  Finally it makes threads hard to follow on Google Usenet Archives when searching for previous answers.
To avoid confusion, do not post your question in someone else's thread.  Please start your own thread with your own question.  Stay with your original thread when posting a follow up.

Some more items added April, 1998 by Chip Pearson

20) When posting a reply to a post, put your response at the top of the message,   above the cited text of previous messages. (See #8 above). This makes it much easier to others to read the responses to a message that has been posted.

21) NOSPAM email addresses....      If you feel the need (of necessity or of vanity, and I suspect most do it for reasons of vanity) to put "Spam Protection" in your email address, do not expect to get an email response to your query.  Those responders who do take the time to email a reply will likely not take the time to delete or change the "Spam Protection".  For God's sake's there was a guy who ROT13'd his address.  How many replies do you think he got?

22) "I posted a question last week, but didn't get any responses.  Should I post it again?"   Well, probably not.  The regular responders to the groups probably read your question, but had no idea what you were talking about.  If you didn't get any responses to a question, rewrite you question, and include sample data and formulas.  (With apologies to the non-English speakers who contribute to the groups, but, after all, this is a USA/UK based group.)

And Last But Not Least....  

If we have helped you save some time, some hair pulling, some frustration, or whatever...  a quick "thank you" is always appreciated, either through the newsgroup or directly by Email.  Remember that none of us are getting paid to do this.  We don't work for Microsoft; we do this to help the Excel community and to help others grow (and to grow ourselves).  

The items in the above list are numbered in the order that they were added or suggested and differ slightly from Chip's actual list.  The comments included in italics are my mine (D.McRitchie) and are intended as a further explanation of items in Chip's list.

Chip Pearson's current list of Hints for New Posters can be found at or viewed from Chip Pearson's Excel Pages.

And Now Some of My Own Additional Suggestions...  

acronyms: MVP, Most Valuable Professional. 
AFAIK, As Far As I Know.  BTW, By The Way.  FYI, For Your Information.  FWIW, For What It's Worth.  hth Hope This Helps.  IMO, In My Opinion.  IMHO, In My Humble Opinion.  IOW, In Other Words.  OBTW, Oh By The Way.  OTOH, On The Other Hand.  TIA, Thanks In Advance. 

The University College Cork Acronym and abbreviation list is used in most of the above links. 

search on acronym at Yahoo for many more acronym servers, including:

Correct spellings for some of the most commonly misspelled words in postings: 
familiar, delimit, delimiter, Excel, navigate, processing, receive, separate, separator, usage, use, using
More than most people want to know about Multipurpose Internet Mail Extensions (MIME).

SPAM in Newsgroups

Please don't reply to Spam in newsgroups, and certainly above all do not quote the spam.  What frequently happens in that that the original spam is eliminated from the archived usenet postings at Google but not the replies, so the spam is perpetuated.  Also the reply ends up as an orphan in Google or conceivably becomes part of some large fictitious thread because it can't be matched up on the original message identification.

Some help in eliminating SPAM from your personal email with message rules can be found on my oe6 page along with additional suggestions in the stocks.htm#Privacy and Related areas on that page.

Please post Excel questions to only one newsgroup.  If you do not have a clue which Excel newsgroup to post to then post to news:// designated for General Topics, which is read by everyone anyway -- Thank you
Similar material at other locations: For more information concerning Google Usenet Archives and the Excel newsgroups. For Information specific to using Outlook Express Microsoft does not monitor the newsgroups.  The place to make suggestions to Microsoft is through the Product Feedback or the Contact US Microsoft Technical Communities,
Microsoft technical communities provide opportunities to interact with Microsoft employees, experts, and your peers in order to share knowledge and news about Microsoft products and related technologies.
Microsoft Newsgroups: Find a Newsgroup for Your Language or Area,
Newsgroups are online threaded discussion groups in which people converse asynchronously to exchange ideas and information. There are over 2,000 newsgroups dedicated to discussing Microsoft products. Locate the right one for your technical questions about the Microsoft products you use and post your question.
Of course the newsgroups, Google Usenet Archives, and the MS KB can help you work with what you've got.


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