#1 Posted by CatsAkimbo (614 posts) -

I've been asked to participate in a panel presentation on "Online Etiquette" at a nearby college, and I need help deciding whether I should avoid this potential train wreck altogether, or try to turn it into something actually useful for any students attending.

This started when I was editing an announcement that went along the lines of, "Become an online etiquette expert and spread the word about good manners online. You can be a responsible digital citizen!" Along with my grammar edits, I sent a note saying that the fastest way to be bullied online is to tell other people how to conduct themselves. The ensuing conversation made it clear that we had pretty different views on all this internet business.

So, what to do? As far as I can tell, the panel will be mostly about English grammar, but it may touch on "how to behave" topics, which I would really like to avoid. If I don't attend, it seems the panel will just be a sort of abstinence-style lecture on "never misspell, emoticons are the devil, always use punctuation."

My personal belief is that people are smart enough to speak multiple "languages" online, and the only problem is when those languages blend together, i.e. when you use emoticons and all-caps in a business e-mail. Similar to how you talk to your mom, your friend, and your boss differently, electronic communication can differ based on who you're messaging (this is called "Code-Switching" for anyone interested in looking up articles).

Despite some of the shit that goes down on this site, I still consider Giant Bomb to be one of the best communities on the internet, so I'd really appreciate any input. I'm not exactly Ms. Manners when it comes to online interaction, and I certainly don't follow some strict grammar guidelines in everything I type, but I think both of those are OK as long as I keep the business stuff professional don't post something I might regret later. That's the point I would like to get across I guess. I just don't know if that's a message I can actually convey in a panel setting.

Am I stupid for even considering it? What do you think about grammar in instant messages to friends versus memos to clients? What are some of your personal guidelines for posting on forums or e-mailing someone? I would guess the majority of people attending would be English-as-a-second-language students and older continuing education students without as much experience online.

#2 Posted by jerseyscum (869 posts) -

Trolling is a perfectly harmless activity that is enjoyed by all.

#3 Posted by Ravenlight (8040 posts) -

People who send business emails that read like instant messages should be immediately fired and sent back to grade school.

You're working in a professional setting, morons. At least pretend like it.

#4 Posted by stryker1121 (1394 posts) -

When I'm e-mailing someone professionally I'm very strict about grammar, punctuation, etc. I re-read what I've written at least once and spell check is on automatically. Writing a work email should be just like writing a paper for class. You should take the same amount of care for both.

#5 Posted by Kerned (1170 posts) -

I do my best to write carefully and correctly in every situation. The fact that I may be writing on a forum, texting, or chatting with a friend doesn't excuse poor grammar or incorrect spelling. I always proofread, without exception. I think that writing poorly is the quickest way to undermine whatever you are trying to say. Okay, actually typing in all caps in the quickest way to undermine your writing, but whatever.

I think the panel sounds important and useful, and if people choose to ignore it, so be it. It will get through to some people, and that's a good thing.

#6 Posted by Petiew (1341 posts) -

lel the managar was so poopur peeved xD ill hav the report on ur desk tomoz tho bro. trust me im a pro ;)
 
I always try to be polite/formal when writing to a boss/tutor etc.

#7 Posted by mtcantor (947 posts) -

@jerseyscum said:

Trolling is a perfectly harmless activity that is enjoyed by all.

No it isn't you asshole.

#8 Posted by CatsAkimbo (614 posts) -

@Kerned said:

I do my best to write carefully and correctly in every situation. The fact that I may be writing on a forum, texting, or chatting with a friend doesn't excuse poor grammar or incorrect spelling. I always proofread, without exception. I think that writing poorly is the quickest way to undermine whatever you are trying to say. Okay, actually typing in all caps in the quickest way to undermine your writing, but whatever.

I think the panel sounds important and useful, and if people choose to ignore it, so be it. It will get through to some people, and that's a good thing.

People might think you're kind of stuck-up in some situations if you write in perfect academic English, though. I know there are people like you out there who use complete sentences with punctuation, and you might actually be miscommunicating more than you think you are.

For example, just today I was talking to someone about where to meet for dinner, and I got a simple three word text reply, "Suggest an alternative." Even though I know this person always does the capitalize and period thing, it just read like he was really pissed at me for not liking the first suggestion restaurant suggest, because of the short message and especially because of the period at the end.

That's not to say I think you're doing it wrong, but I also don't think your method is right for everyone. Nothing's going to go (terribly) wrong if you write sloppy text messages to your friend. You just have to know in what situations to think "ok, I can't be sloppy on this one, let's proofread and make it sound nice."

#9 Posted by HistoryInRust (6289 posts) -

Cursing is always good.

"Put the goddamned jelly on the motherfucking bread. Do it!"

See? Etiquette.

#10 Posted by EXTomar (4635 posts) -

The important thing I think you should get across is that EVERYTHING someone writes online can be archived. Do not write, post, or create anything that could come back to haunt them years later.

#11 Posted by Kerned (1170 posts) -

@CatsAkimbo: How you say something is less important than what you are saying. The "how" remains important, however. As a rule you should at least be able to appear that you have enough self respect to have bothered to have learned your native language. It's unacceptable for a native English speaker to communicate they way that some do on these forums (and elsewhere). (Forgive my typos, I have one fewer full bottle of wine this evening.)

Also, if you think my desire to communicate properly makes me stuck up, I believe you may be confusing my motives. No time right now, though. Heading to bed. You'll know where to find me.

#12 Posted by VisariLoyalist (2991 posts) -

talk about how easy it is to crowd source your work

#13 Posted by TheHT (11093 posts) -

@VisariLoyalist said:

talk about how easy it is to crowd source your work

AW SNAP SON.

#14 Posted by audioBusting (1489 posts) -

As an ESL-speaker myself, I think the most important thing is to be more a)self-conscious and b)considerate of others. Most of the internet fights I've witnessed start from miscommunications (like you said about the dinner!) and unwillingness to back down. Sometimes other people feel differently about online discussions. One time, a friend of mine (also ESL) thought that we were fighting in an IM conversation, even though I didn't think so! It would've helped if I was more aware then. Fortunately it didn't amount to anything because he's cool enough to apologize for the "fight" afterwards (that absolutely confused me at the time).

To try to be aware of what's appropriate in a given situation is important, not just in an online setting! Writing some harmless fucking expletives on the GB forums is fine (as far as I know?) but in professional correspondence or when talking to elders probably not. I try my best to write/talk appropriately but sometimes I fail miserably, and then I'd feel really really bad about it because it might show disrespect or even hurt somebody.

#15 Edited by TruthTellah (8721 posts) -

@CatsAkimbo said:

@Kerned said:

I do my best to write carefully and correctly in every situation. The fact that I may be writing on a forum, texting, or chatting with a friend doesn't excuse poor grammar or incorrect spelling. I always proofread, without exception. I think that writing poorly is the quickest way to undermine whatever you are trying to say. Okay, actually typing in all caps in the quickest way to undermine your writing, but whatever.

I think the panel sounds important and useful, and if people choose to ignore it, so be it. It will get through to some people, and that's a good thing.

People might think you're kind of stuck-up in some situations if you write in perfect academic English, though. I know there are people like you out there who use complete sentences with punctuation, and you might actually be miscommunicating more than you think you are.

For example, just today I was talking to someone about where to meet for dinner, and I got a simple three word text reply, "Suggest an alternative." Even though I know this person always does the capitalize and period thing, it just read like he was really pissed at me for not liking the first suggestion restaurant suggest, because of the short message and especially because of the period at the end.

That's not to say I think you're doing it wrong, but I also don't think your method is right for everyone. Nothing's going to go (terribly) wrong if you write sloppy text messages to your friend. You just have to know in what situations to think "ok, I can't be sloppy on this one, let's proofread and make it sound nice."

@Kerned said:

@CatsAkimbo: How you say something is less important than what you are saying. The "how" remains important, however. As a rule you should at least be able to appear that you have enough self respect to have bothered to have learned your native language. It's unacceptable for a native English speaker to communicate they way that some do on these forums (and elsewhere). (Forgive my typos, I have one fewer full bottle of wine this evening.)

Also, if you think my desire to communicate properly makes me stuck up, I believe you may be confusing my motives. No time right now, though. Heading to bed. You'll know where to find me.

Now -this- is a very important topic when it comes to Internet etiquette, and it impacts us all. It's great that you both brought it up. Intent vs Perception.

This is especially relevant to new users just trying to find their voice in online communities they are not accustomed to, but even this slight disagreement showcases it well and represents how universal the issue is for all kinds of users. When going online, people must realize that others won't be seeing you as you; they will be seeing your words and online actions as you. Your intent, while meaningful, pales in comparison to the perception of what you put out there. So, you have to consider ways in which you can better communicate your intent so that it is perceived accurately.

Different places all around the Internet have their own cultures, and just like visiting other regions of the world, you have to take cultural and language differences into account. How you speak one place may not work as effectively elsewhere. Now, this can certainly veer into discussion of online behavior, but if you don't want to go down that road, we can just look at the typed words you share with others. Communication is meaningless if it isn't effective, and unfortunately, formal construction can sometimes be a barrier between relating better with someone else. So, online users should first and foremost be observant. Look at how formal people are being with what they say, and note how someone is talking when people in the community seem to listen. Be aware of whether formality or informality is more appreciated and thus listened to.

For example, Giant Bomb appears to be a place where longer, well-formatted comments are often responded to; though, they do still pale in comparison to short, inflammatory statements. Yet, while short, inflammatory statements do get a higher response online, they also get a dramatically lower quality of response. If you value your time, quality online has to come before quantity. You can have hundreds of quick, meaningless conversations online, but if you put in some effort, you can have a decent number of meaningful conversations, as well. The Internet is huge, and instead of aimlessly wading through endless pages each day, you have to find the gems that are out there. That's certainly one of the reasons I comment on Giant Bomb, as I feel I've found a place where I can reasonably find decent conversation on topics I care about.

Another side of this is realizing that you are also only perceiving someone's words or images, not truly seeing their intent. Everyone on the Internet struggles with this, and it's just a side effect of the abstract nature of the Internet. So, while this is certainly in the realm of online behavior, it does speak to how you talk to others. Consider that your words might be misunderstood simply by how you expressed them, and when misunderstand, don't freak out. Just do your best to calmly explain what you meant in a clearer manner. If people still can't accept that, then just move on, as explaining your true intent is all you can really do in such a situation. And keep that in mind when interacting with others, as well. People will often come off poorly in their remarks or seem to be saying something they didn't really intend to say, and then you just find arguments where it is more about perceptions of the other's argument and not their real positions. This happens every day and is one of the most common Internet experiences amongst those who communicate with others. Don't assume you know absolutely what someone meant, as they may be just like you. Someone just trying to find the best way to express themselves online, and unfortunately, they see the same pitfalls as you do. It's something we must all keep in mind, and in general, if we really try to see the person behind the cold words, we're much more likely to find them.

This is such an important topic for both new and old online users, and once again, I am quite glad that you both mentioned it. Online users are well-served to observe a few simple truths about online communication: People will see words and images, not you, and you will only see words and images, not them. Misunderstandings are natural and something you just have to manage as best you can. Be observant of how others talk to one another online so as to not close the door on a conversation before it ever really began. And remember that most posts have real people behind them with similar concerns over how their words will come off as you do. Always keep these things in mind, and you will find that most online communities are much more accessible than they seem at first.

Thanks to you both for the excuse to talk about something I care about, and, CatsAkimbo, I hope your panel presentation goes well and possibly helps someone get more out of their experience online.