The Secret Cause of Flame Wars

From Wired,

According to recent research published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, I've only a 50-50 chance of ascertaining the tone of any e-mail message. The study also shows that people think they've correctly interpreted the tone of e-mails they receive 90 percent of the time.

I wonder to what extent emoticons would increase the likelihood of interpreting the tone? I use them all the time in corresponding with students with the idea that they should make a difference.



I've often experienced the same problem. I try to use emoticons whenever feasible, but I've wondered if doing so is a bit of a shortcut. Maybe if we had more training in eloquence, we'd be better able to express our emotions better. I've been reading lots of Aristotle and Cicero lately, and there is a great deal of information there about emotions.

I also wonder how often we really, conciously want people to know our emotional state when we fire off an email. It's very easy to write exactly what you mean to say, and then backpedal later by saying, "You totally misread the tone of that email!" I'm sure we've all done this at some point.

I don't know about a shortcut. Perhaps it's just written language adapting now that we are thinking more "visually" as writers. After all, couldn't include a smiley face as a graphical representation on a typewriter.

Sure you could! To wit: :-)

I meant "as a graphical representation." When we use emoticons and smileys in emails and IM, they are typically translated by the client to images.