I expect that communicating by computer is a concept quite new to many of you. While I don't claim to be an old hand at this, I do have a little experience and - more to the point - a brief document on the subject. The following is shamelessly plagiarized from notes on my company computer network.
While communicating by computer has many advantages, there are some drawbacks:
- Nonverbal cues (such as facial expression, intonation, and body language) that enhance face-to-face discussion are missing.
- Reading takes longer than listening, and reading a terminal screen for long periods of time may become tiring.
One of the greatest difficulties when communicating by computer is that you often cannot tell if the author of a note is serious, joking, angry, or being sarcastic because you cannot see the author's face. As a result, users of computer-based conferencing systems have developed patterns to represent facial expressions.
Some examples of patterns are presented here for your consideration.
:-) Joking or sarcastic face
:-} Fiendish grin
;-) A wink
:-( Sad or angry face
|-( Late night
Use all uppercase letters when you want to SHOUT in your note. Surround with asterisks a word you want to emphasize (like *this*).
Do not be afraid to rant, protest, or pontificate in your notes -- just be considerate enough to warn people that you are about to express an angry or unsolicited opinion.
One way of signalling the boundaries of a tirade in your text is to use some expression before and after the text in question. For example, you could surround an online rampage with <FLAME ON> and <FLAME OFF>.