Online Etiquette

Voice Card  -  Volume 2  -  Paul Card Number 3  -  Sun, Oct 16, 1988 4:50 PM

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>.