Better online communications

While the Internet has brought us a lot of improvements, advances, and new possibilities, it unfortunately has also had a very profound negative impact on society by being at least partially responsible for the decay of grammar, spelling, and general communication etiquette.

Just 200 years ago the process of composing a message to another individual was an arduous process, involving painstakingly slow handwriting with ink and paper, starting over and over after each mistake, sometimes making it an hour-long ordeal to get it done right. Today we fire up our e-mail, chat client, or browser, hastily throw together a few sloppy words within a few seconds, and call that a communication.

Even worse quality of electronic communication came with the arrival of devices like the web-enabled phone and crackberry … uh, Blackberry devices. Have you ever seen a message from somebody replying to an e-mail from his crackberry? It makes William Strunk spin in his grave …

Of course to its defense it also has to be noted that people sometimes have to post in a language that’s not their native tongue, maybe they never learned to type correctly, or that the school system failed them altogether.

Whatever the reason may be, here are a few tips that can help improve communication online, whether it’s e-mail, chat, or forums, and result in more successful information exchanges.

Don’t use all Caps

Typing a message in all capital letters is considered the equivalent of yelling online, and can be interpreted as being rude. Please don’t use all caps unless you have a very good reason to do so, and then state the reason (e.g. “I’m visually impaired, please excuse the use of all caps”). If others think you’re yelling by using all caps, you might get a rude response, or no response at all. But if you explain why, people will be tolerant.

Don’t use excessive signatures and wallpaper

A lot of people think their e-mail and forum posts need to be decorated with colorful backgrounds, animated images, artsy fonts, happy melodies, and fancy signatures. Guess what? No matter how colorful and animated the message is, it’s still boring if you have nothing to say. On the other hand, a message written in plain text, black default font on white background can be fascinating to read. Why? Because it’s the content that matters. All those images and colors do is distract from the text, bloat the message, waste bandwidth, and annoy the reader.

Send messages in plain text format if at all possible. If you have to use a signature, try to stick with text. If you really have to use images, keep them tasteful and small. Remember that there are still a lot of people using dial-up modems, whose bandwidth is limited. Wasting their time with unnecessary decorations is very impolite.

Don’t spam your friends

Unfortunately, many people are guilty of this one. What’s even worse, most of them aren’t even aware of what they’re doing. Please, do NOT send every joke and funny picture and silly program to everybody in your address book. Here are but a few reasons why you should not do this:

  • It is extremely rude to continuously bombard people with unsolicited mail. That includes your friends and family, too.
  • E-Mail attachments are the #1 way for viruses to spread. Always delete attachments you did not expect, no matter who they’re from.
  • If an e-mail asks you to forward it to everybody you know, it’s a hoax or a virus or a chainletter, and has to be deleted.
  • That 2 MegaByte attachment, e.g. movie clip or sound file, you received in 2 seconds with your DSL or cable modem connection will block somebody else’s dial-up modem for half an hour while downloading to the inbox.
  • Just because you think that joke is funny, doesn’t mean that every single person you know will think so, too. Some people might find it offensive or boring.
  • Most ISP’s impose a limit on mailbox space. Don’t fill up somebody’s mailbox with stupid jokes or programs, causing them to go over quota and prevent them from receiving important e-mail.

Please be extremely selective about what e-mail you forward. Remember that if your friends have Internet access, they can either get the info themselves, or somebody else has already sent it to them. Only forward information that can be obtained no other way by the recipient.

Please be extremely selective about who you forward e-mail to. Never forward something to everybody in your address book. If you really have to send out jokes, assemble a mailing list and only add people to it after they agreed or requested to be on the list.

Acronyms

Acronyms and abbreviations are commonly used in online communication. They are an easy, shorter way to express something. They are fun to use, and can make it easier or faster to type a message.

Examples:
ROTFL – Rolling On The Floor Laughing
FWIW – For What It’s Worth
IMHO – In My Humble Opinion

If you see an acronym, but are not sure of its meaning, go to http://www.acronymfinder.com/ – chances are you’ll find the translation.

They should not be abused, however. Please use them sparingly. English is a powerful language that contains words to express all the subtle shadings of meaning one would wish to convey. Don’t use so many acronyms in your message that it looks like it was written in code. And don’t make up your own acronyms like IGWTDAPUSM (I Gotta Walk The Dog And Pick Up Some Milk). You’ll only confuse and annoy others. Stick to common ones, and use them wisely.

In addition, never use abbreviations like “u” for “you” or “r” for “are”. It really won’t kill you to type the extra two letters. Another thing to avoid is language like “leet haxor rulez” and similar immature keyboard diarrhea

Page 2, grammar and spelling: Common mistakes

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