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Advice on Style for Contributions to


Last modified: 2004-06-03


The quality of a newsgroup will benefit if its community adheres to certain conventions in presentation and style. In this posting we provide some suggestions concerning contributions to We claim no authority, but hope that contributors to RGB will be able to use these suggestions to their advantage.

RGB is a text group. Like chess, RGB has some particular problems due to presenting hands and auctions. It is all too easy to make your article difficult to read on other members' computers. However using the formatting tips given herein will avoid such problems and keep discussion flowing smoothly. There are a few things in particular that recur and should be avoided:

  1. Do not use tabs in formatting as this in particular can ruin hand records with certain news readers.
  2. Do not use proportional fonts for the same reason. (If your reader is presently set to proportional the example deals below will not align correctly).
  3. State where you are posting from as the answers to many laws and bidding questions will depend on this.
  4. Include the form of scoring and vulnerability if asking how to bid/play a hand.
  5. Post using a text format. No binaries, no HTML, no attachments, no files, no pictures, no music, no MIME documents.
  6. When posting complete hands, check and recheck that they have exactly thirteen cards, and that no cards are duplicated between two or more hands.
  7. Do not use hands from online bridge games before they have been retired by that game.

These are discussed in more detail below.

Richard Pavlicek has also written a Bridge Writing Style Guide with much good advice. It may be seen at Alternatively you can download a PDF version at


This posting is not the rgb.FAQ, which was a separate document for the group containing 'frequently asked questions' (FAQ), but is no longer available. Here is a quick to various online information:

The Laws of Bridge
International Appeals
ACBL home page
Great Bridge Links
Bridge Newsgroups
Online Bridge
National organisations


The newsgroup news.announce.newusers regularly provides an introduction to the general rules and etiquette of net use. You will find there much commonsense advice: your postings reflect upon you, compose your text carefully, be brief, use a descriptive subject header, summarize previous posts to which you are responding, don't quote more material than is necessary, restrict your lines to 72 characters, sign your articles. You will find there also a discussion of the disease of mushrooming meta-discussions, suggestions about when to use private email rather than the net, suggestions about ignoring or dealing with postings that are deemed inappropriate, obnoxious or silly, advice about proper procedure in quoting previous posts and private email, and much else.

It is important that you use a text format and a Fixed Font: details of how to do this with Outlook Express may be found at Do not use HTML or post MIME documents, and do not include any attachments, so no binaries, no files, no pictures, no music.

RGB is an international group, and it helps particularly to identify your country in postings, as many issues may be specific to it. It is polite to give your real name, and Town/City. A short sigfile such as:

John B Doe - Cambridge Mass. USA

... will make replies to your query or point much more meaningful.

General Netiquette asks you to restrict sigs to maximum 4 text lines. The special "-- " (3 character line) prefix [called a "sig separator"] allows good news programs to snip out the sig automatically when others reply. Unfortunately some Microsoft products [eg Hotmail via a web browser] will forcibly change a "-- " line in a posting into "--", making the sig separator ineffective.

When responding to a post you should include enough of the question so that people know to what you are replying but delete enough [called "snipping"] so that people do not have to read large chunks they have already read earlier. Such editing can be quite an art. Look over other postings to see what is excessive editing, or clutter from too much repetition. You should nearly always edit out sigfiles if your reader does not do this.

Try to snip in such a way as not to misattribute quotations, and especially when quoting someone in order to disagree with them, try not to distort their position through careless cutting.


Some people put problems in the subject lines. For example, the subject might read "What do you bid with AKQx Jxx xxx xxx?".

If you do this, it is important to repeat the content in the body of the article. If a hand is included then it is important that is repeated in a way that is easily readable - see next section.


It is helpful to your readers if you follow a minimal standard format when posting a hand or a deal. Count the cards! Check there are no duplications! List the suits in the order S, H, D, C. In a diagram of four hands, place South at the bottom and rearrange the directions to make South declarer unless there is a special reason not to. Do not use the tab key to compose a diagram, as the diagram may become misaligned on other people's screens and is very likely to become misaligned if your text is quoted and indented. If only two hands are shown it may be better to place them side by side as West and East, and a single hand can be specified inline. Please do not use proportional fonts: this is also important.

The exact distribution of small cards is often relevant for signalling and for communication between the hands, so please do not use xx's to represent small cards when discussing a play problem, and in a bidding problem use xx's only when they may truly be understood to represent the smallest cards in the suit. If you are posting a deal from actual play and you've forgotten all the small cards, then it may be best to make them up in some way so that this newsgroup has a precisely specified problem to consider.

There are some defensive problems where one wants to "filter out" signalling issues, emphasizing inferences from bidding and declarer's play. In such cases, use of xx's may avoid peripheral concerns.

Here are some minor points to improve readability. The symbol "T" for 10 is common and its use is recommended, particularly if you don't use spaces between cards. In the auction, use P or Pass and X or Dbl rather than PASS and DBL. A vertical layout for the suits in the North and South hands is difficult to read, please don't use that format. Cards are always specified suit first and bids level first (so D2 is a card and 2D is a bid or contract). Please capitalize the symbols AKQJT and use lower-case "x" for the unspecified small cards.

When recapping the auction, make sure that East's bids are to the right of West's, else readers may associate the bids with the wrong hand. The recommended format is to list the bids in four columns in the order W-N-E-S. Note all alertable bids and explain the bid in context. Do not explain a bid by convention name if it is not one of the standard bids or if you play some variation that is not standard. You can avoid confusion by describing a bid rather than naming it.

Some people have small screens, and it is helpful if they do not have to continually scroll up and down to read a hand. Thus a helpful diagram is quite small. Height tends to be more of a problem than width and the example below (in a 72 character width) will be legible almost anywhere. Note that if its columns don't line up then your news program needs setting to fixed font!

Brd: 1 S KT83Pairs |WNES
Dlr: N H A5  | 1C(1)P1H(2)
Vul: NS D AJ62  |PPP 
  C J73  |    
 S A97 S J652 |    
 H T832 H K7 |    
 D KT75 D 943 |(1) alerted, explained only as
 C 98 C KQ65 |"could be short"
  S Q4  |    
Opening H QJ964Result: |(2) less than 10 points,
lead: D5 D Q8 +140 NS | non-forcing, not alerted
  C AT42  |    
N/S are playing a system where you need a five card suit to open 1D, 1H or 1S  1C is marked as forcing, 13-15 if balanced 

Play problems where only two hands are shown are easier to read if declarer is shown as West and dummy as East. For example:

A97J652|West deals and opens 1NT.
AT32K7|Everyone passes and North leads
KT75943|H5. How do you play?


When you post a bidding problem, supply the method of scoring, the vulnerability and the position of the dealer. Do this even if you think the information is superfluous; it seldom is, and takes up very little space.

When you post a play problem, again, as a matter of routine, mention the method of scoring and the vulnerability. It is normally right to provide the bidding too. Whenever possible, please give the level of the event. Also specify the type of defensive carding that is being used if relevant.

When asking for a director's ruling on a particular deal, describe the level of the event and any relevant circumstances, specify all four hands, and describe the bidding and play completely. (In cases involving unauthorized information you can alternatively provide only the authorized information and ask what are the logical options.)

It is also extremely important when asking for a Director's ruling to quote where the event is, what jurisdiction, and what level of event. You may often get a quite different decision depending on local rules or the standard of play involved.


Many postings on RGB are in the "What went wrong?" category. A good original posting of that type describes a deal and bidding or play that is, in the poster's humble opinion, reasonable and without obvious error, but that has led to an unsatisfactory result. The poster asks whether some particular action is to blame or whether the result is just unfortunate. Deals in which the poster already recognizes that some error has been committed normally do not provide good material for discussion. Please do not pose problems of which one component is partnership misunderstanding, partnership mistrust, or flouting of partnership agreements. The net can't help with those problems except by impressing upon you that partnership understanding and partnership trust are preconditions for a good game of bridge.

In consideration of your worldwide audience, please avoid bridge slang: "a hook", "to tap", or "red on white" may not be as clear to everyone as "a finesse", "force to ruff", or "vul v not". Note especially that the terms "red", "white" and "green" for vulnerabilities have different meanings for different people. Also remember that what is a standard bid to you may mean something else on another part of the globe. In particular, remember that 1NT may be 12-14 and 1H may not promise 5 cards.


It is not normally correct to solicit email replies because there are always some other members of the newsgroup who are interested in replies to any problem. It is satisfactory to ask for email replies as well as posts.

If you are taking a poll or compiling a list, an alternative to consider is to request replies by email and then post a summary of the results. You should make clear that you are doing this since it is rarely done. If someone does send you email, it is polite to respond with at least a brief acknowledgement. Please remember to post the summary you promise! If people have gone to the trouble of replying, they are likely to be interested in the results.

Before posting a reply to a problem, think it through. Read all the other postings in the same thread; maybe somebody else has already said what you were going to say. Reply only if you believe you are qualified and have an informed opinion, and compose your answer carefully - the time spent on doing so will save your readers much more time in the aggregate. Remember that it is only the careful reasoning that you supply that makes your answer of any interest to the RGB readers. If you are addressing a bidding problem, explain why your chosen bid is superior to the likely alternatives. If it is a play problem, try to provide percentages. If it is a director's problem, state the legal basis for your ruling. Please appreciate that a question that appears trivial to you was not trivial to the original poster and may not be trivial to many other readers. Be polite, succinct and to the point. Quote from the original posting no more than is needed to make your answer clear; attribute your quote properly, but never quote a signature.

It is not normally a good idea to make successive postings referring to the same problem or issue, although a discussion may introduce a new topic that merits a second contribution. If you decide you've not made yourself clear in your first contribution, resolve to do better when you comment on another problem. If you decide that your original answer to a problem was wrong and meanwhile someone else has posted a better answer, don't feel that you now must post a correction to your previous answer. Perhaps you should not have replied in the first place, and anyway, the correction has already appeared. Forget about it and resolve to do better the next time. If you've posted an answer to a problem and you read a subsequent answer by someone else that you think is wrong, don't reiterate what you've said before. You've made your point and the readers can make up their own mind.

If you see a posting that is rude or inappropriate, an email message should be preferred to replying over the net; replying by follow-up on the net tends to generate flame wars instead of discussion. If you post a hand on this newsgroup you should be willing to accept that some players will strongly disagree with your bidding or play. Please understand that the nature of a public electronic network does not allow you the same degree of social control that you may have in your local bridge club; for that very practical reason you should try hard not to let a style of posting of which you disapprove interfere with your enjoyment of this newsgroup.


The FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions) and related archive material, including a variety of Bridge software, was maintained by Markus Buchhorn ( but is no longer available.

For links there are various places, including Great Bridge Links at and David Stevenson's Bridge Links at

Most national organisations have their own sites which will include local links. A reasonably comprehensive list of national sites can be found at

Various servers allow people to play and watch bridge over the Internet. Details may be found at Please don't post hands from these servers until they are no longer current; the same hand may be played by many other RGB readers.

Thanks to Ted Ying, Paul Jackson, Paul Barden, Mark Lehto, Mark Brader, Jim Loy, Hans van Staveren, Geoff Hopcraft, Franco Baseggio, Doug Newlands, David Grabiner, David desJardins, Dave Flower, Chris Ryall, Charles Blair, Brian Clausing, Bharat Rao, Barry Rigal, Andy Bowles, Alvin Bluthman and Adam Wildavsky for their contributions to this style guide, and Jude Goodwin-Hanson for help in promulgating it.

This guide will be available at the following addresses. It will also be posted to RGB three times a year, in mid-January, mid-May and mid-September.

David Stevenson [for comments]
Steve Willner
Bas Braams

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