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A picture is worth a thousand words
I've noticed some posts of late that can be interpreted in different ways. Posts to the forum sometimes are interpreted in the opposite way to the poster's intention. A prime cause of misinterpretation is that written communication lacks the visual cues that we use when interpreting face-to-face communication.

Here's an edited extract from an online netiquette guide :

Be specific
Remember you're typing, not speaking. Because of this, many "obvious" things to you are not obvious to your audience. That's why we have the smiley [ :-) ] symbol (look at it sideways), to denote sarcasm, irony or humour. A perfect example of being ambiguous was someone who wrote, "*I* always thought the words were...." Someone else was upset at the fact that this person was not only wrong, but also had clearly set themselves up as an authority due to the emphasis on the "*I*"! But the author meant "*I*" in a self-deprecating way, to mean more of a "well here's one lowly opinion, take it for what its worth." Notice that these two construals of the writing are _direct_opposites_! If we heard the person speak, it would be easy to tell exactly which one he meant. Even though the use of smileys might be considered an abuse of punctuation and a reduction of humour (like a laugh track), they are necessary in this medium of interactive, yet one-way, communication. People write as if they were speaking, but it is impossible to register emotional tone or facial expression. Remember, not everyone else is as clever as you think you might be. Beware of ambiguity, and use smileys!

http://www.phish.net/discussion/netiquette.html

Readers – if you've been offended by a seeming smart-aleck or insulting comment in a post, before firing off an angry response ask yourself if the comment could have been intended in good humour that you might have picked up from the right tone of voice and facial expression in face-to-face communication.

Posters – minimise the chances of being misinterpreted (and attacked in response) by signalling intended humour with smileys, a range of which is provided at the bottom of each new-post window. BUT ... don't automatically assume that the inclusion of a smiley will make the all readers happy with what you say!



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