politeness of public corrections of others' speech

RonButters at AOL.COM RonButters at AOL.COM
Tue Sep 10 18:28:19 UTC 2002

In a message dated 9/10/02 2:05:51 PM, mam at THEWORLD.COM writes:

<< Ron also dislikes the shift key. His all-lowercase text is easier to
read than all-uppercase. (My opinion, and see earlier posts about

Nobody has yet presented information on a single "study."

<<when someone is speaking more loudly than is appropriate -- say,
someone who is hard of hearing and has difficulty gauging their own
volume, or simply has gotten carried away -- do you consider it rude to
ask them to please lower their voice? ISTM that that's exactly the
analog to the situation here.>>

Well, yeah, I think it would be pretty rude to tell a deaf stranger that he
or she was not speaking like a person who has normal hearing--yeah. Of
course, one could construct a situation in which this might be possible, but
I don't think that that situation would be very analogous to lecturing a
total stranger on the internet--and doing so, not in a quiet aside, but
rather to the whole list.

<<all-uppercase text as shouting... whether you agree or not.
This is the current norm of Internet society. >>

My whole purpose in writing was to challenge the bases for such
prescriptivist utterances as this. Descriptively, OF COURSE, many people know
of the existence of this "rule." But if someone chooses to violate it, or
doesn't even know about it, is it really our business to tell them that they
are being rude (when they are not at all intending to)? When we are face to
face with someone who is actually shouting, it can be physically unpleasant.
But when we are reading somebody's e-mail message, the presence of a message
that is all in caps does not at all impinge upon us, though it may give us an
opportunity to show off our superior knowledge of the "rules." It is not so
much analogous to telling a deaf person to stop shouting (see above) as
telling a total stranger in front of a group of other strangers that "He
don't like nothin'" is bad English.

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