Been thinking a lot lately about words and language and the internet. I've always been a word buff and love learning new words. I like to use precisely the right word when possible. (Sometimes, as I get older, they seem to go missing.) Nuances, subtle shades of meaning are important.
It has always irritated me when people say,"Communicating on the internet is hard," or "It's too easy for things to be taken the wrong way." I've had people misbehave on my email lists for years and then blame those who took offense for not understanding them properly.
But think about it: Is communicating in writing on the internet any different than communicating in writing on paper? I don't think so. What is different is the amount of thought that is put into it. People will say that spelling and grammar don't matter in email, but those conventions exist for a reason. They make communication clearer and easier. People will write things in an email that they would never commit to paper. They will send an email un-proofread because it's just email.
Sometimes, too, I think that people do not communicate well on the internet because they don't read well. They skim. And all too often, between the sloppiness of the writers and the lack of skill of the readers, the meaning gets muddled.
Then, too, I have seen people write things on the internet or in email and then express surprise when they draw an unfavorable reaction. They almost always say the same thing, that the offense is in the mind of the reader. But in reality, the offense is in their words. People seem, for whatever reason, to more readily deny the clear meaning of their words online than in print.
Maybe it is because much of online writing is done in haste. I, personally, have a read-three-times-rule for any writing that is prompted by emotion. After I write it I make myself go back at least three times and read it, with at least thirty minutes of thinking about something else in between. This has saved me from many emails and blog posts that were better not shared!
For this communication thing to work, online or off, people need to understand what words mean, use them properly and carefully, and then own them. If we want to communicate more effectively online, reading effectively written items--good books, old letters, even well-written blogs--can be a tremendous help. And we should always, always give things a second read--I usually do this aloud--just to make sure that we are clear in what we are saying.