Advice on Text Wrapping Email

Steve Champeon
2000-08-17

Someone recently asked:

> What is the standard number of characters per line in email. Is it: 
> 
> A) 72 
> B) 76 
> C) 80 
> D) Something else

Steven Champeon answers:

Working on the assumption that people using monospace text-only readers like pine, which are usually 24x80 (or some variation therein, like 40x80), the sane solution is usually to keep it down to below 80. However, on mailing lists or Usenet you have to take into account the possibility that someone will quote you (usually, using "> ", so that's two more chars) so it's best kept below 76. I have my text-wrap set to 72 chars, though I sometimes adjust for really ugly text-wrapping.

So, what's the big deal anyway? Well… raw text or ASCII is the least common denominator for all internet protocol communications. Email may be the easiest way of delivering text across all platforms and by sending it text only you guarantee that your message has the highest chance of being read as intended (we won't even mention the bandwidth savings). Thus, it is widely believed that /all/ email should be sent as text only. That may disappoint those of you who prefer to send richtext or HTML based email, but if you want to be sure to reach everyone, send it text only.