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4.2.5 Emotions

Emotions can be easily misunderstood when you can't see faces or body language. People may not realise you are joking; irony and satire are easily missed. Smileys or emoticons such as :-) and :-( can be used to express your feelings (look at these sideways). Other possibilities are punctuation (?! #@*!), <grin> or <g>, <joke>, or even using mock HTML tags such as <rant>smileys are stupid</rant>.

Remember that many discussion systems only support plain text so you can't rely on fonts and colours to add meaning.

Be aware of your audience: people from widely differing cultures and backgrounds may read what you write online. What you find funny may be offensive to them.


Activity 7 (exploratory)

Look at the document below. What emotions are being expressed through smileys and typography? Would Jon and Sue still be be on speaking terms if they hadn't used these devices?

Click on the link below to read the e-mail conversation.

View document: Jon and Sue [Tip: hold Ctrl and click a link to open it in a new tab. (Hide tip)]


In Sue's first reply to Jon she expresses her frustration by typing 'Aaaarrrggghhhh'. But she ends that message with a winking smiley. Jon's reply then says 'sorry' in a very small voice! Finally, Sue's reply starts with a happy smiley to show that everything's OK. She uses a large font when she mentions the annoyingly early meeting time.

I feel sure that Jon and Sue would still be friendly after this email exchange. But I have seen email exchanges between colleagues which had the opposite effect, when the participants have not taken care about how they express themselves in their messages.