- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 23, 1999

It's the great millennium myth. Internet communication makes everything easier, quicker, and well, less formal. The '90s man (or woman, as the case may be) uses this nonassuming form of communication to get a date, businesses exercise it to develop client interest, and public relations firms hide behind it as a less in-your-face form of lobbying. But even cyberfun may be short lived.
Enter "netiquette," an obnoxious collection of Internet niceties to ensure your electronic message leaves the recipient with warm fuzzies. Good-bye, worry-free e-mail. It used to be that one could communicate with ones' friends or clients without having to worry about adding a smiley face to indicate that said sentence really was meant as a joke, or remembering that if one accidentally presses "caps lock," the sentence could be taken as a cybertantrum. But that was prior to the dawn of Internet manners, and before an e-mail provider could remind one to watch the language, please.
Consider this message received by an e-mailer recently from an e-mail provider company: "Be careful about sarcasm and humor. Often, what you mean as a joke can be taken as a criticism. Be sure what you say is taken in fun, add smileys (also known as emotions) to the end of your e-mail. Here are a few that will do the trick: Smile :), Laugh :u, Wink ;)."
And if the emotion one has alluded to in said e-mail is less than favorable, join the ranks of the netiquettely challenged. "Write positive," the server reminded. "Use the word 'not' sparingly. Don't write, 'He's not very often late.' Instead, write, 'He usually comes on time.' "
For some, netiquette may have only infiltrated the ranks of their personal e-mail. Others may already be receiving tips from their Internet Miss Manners.:( Either way, it may be time for the '90s cyberchatters and their manners-minded interceptors to realize there are some emotions e-mail will never convey quite like the live human. So relax with the smiley faces already. Maybe the new millennium will find disillusioned Web surfers and chat-room masters taking on new communication trends: thinking outside the semicolon and talking face to face.

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