The bulletin-board system has two methods of entering the text of your message. The first is Text mode, which is the simplest to use, but doesn't allow much control over formatting, and won't let you include images or links to other files. The second is HTML mode, which gives you more control over format, but requires somewhat more care to use.
You select the mode you want by checking the corresponding box in the upper right of the form. Note that you can select Process Math in either mode, so you can include mathematics in simple text documents as well as highly formatted HTML-based ones.
In Text mode, you simply type your message in the Message box, leaving a blank line between paragraphs. The system will do all the rest of the formatting for you. Note that (other than the blank lines between paragraphs) the spacing and line breaks that you type are ignored by the system, and the paragraphs are wrapped automatically by the reader's browser. You can enter mathematics in this mode as described in the section on Mathematical Notation.
In HTML mode, you enter special formatting commands (called tags) as part of your message. These control whether words are shown in bold or italics, where paragraph breaks occur, and where images or tables appear in the message. The HTML tags are not particularlly difficult, but can be tedious to enter by hand, so this is not for the faint of heart. Note that in this mode, blank lines do not indicate a paragraph break; you must enter these yourself using the <P> tag. See the section on Simple HTML for samples of how to do some straight-forward formatting.
As you compose your message, you can use the Preview button to see how it looks. If you don't like it, you can continue to edit it until you do. Once it is ready, use the Save or Post button to make your message available to the public.
No matter which mode you choose, you should enter your text using only standard (7-bit) ASCII characters. That means that any "special" characters should be avoided, including "smart" quotes, diacritical marks, long dashes, and so on. Basically, only use the characters that are printed directly on an American keyboard are allowed. If you need to use other special charactes, you will need to use HTML mode, and type the HTML commands for them. For example "
é" gets you "é". See the Special Characters guide for some samples of how to do this.