(More) DOs and DON’Ts of online conversations


I’ve already discussed a few DON’Ts for online conversations, but after some feedback from readers I’ve compiled another list of DON’Ts as well as a conversation DO.

DON’T use sarcasm

This was suggested by a few people, and I can’t believe I didn’t think of it for my original set of conversation DON’Ts.

I love sarcasm (and its cousin, satire), but in an online conversation, especially with people who don’t know you — sarcasm should be avoided. In fact, anything requiring inflection or face/body language should probably be avoided. It’s too easy for people to become confused and misinterpret your words.

I don’t know how many times I’ve seen someone attempt to use sarcasm, only to be applauded by someone that actually disagrees with them and thinks they’re being serious (it’s funny, but also not).

DON’T commit logical fallacies

This is one I’m still trying to get more acquainted with myself and was suggested by Manachron. I like the idea though. Logical fallacies are misconceptions that result from incorrect reasoning — and they are numerous. Knowing the various logical fallacies cannot only help you pick apart someone else’s argument and force them back to the drawing board to analyze their own ideas, but it’s a great way to help you analyze your OWN arguments and make sure they are up to snuff.

DON’T use anecdotes

This was suggested by psychologistmimi, who says “I like to see statistics and corresponding sources.”

I touched on the need to cite sources in my earlier post, but taking that one step further, hard information is a boon to any argument. Your personal experience with something, while obviously important to you, is a representative sample of one: Yourself. It’s easily dismissible and provides no real data to back up your point of view. I’ve also seen cases where people twist their opposition’s anecdote to suit their argument — something that is much harder to do with statistics and outside data.

That said, Mimi admits “a really deeply moving anecdote can help a little.”

DO take the time to digest each comment before responding

This is a biggie. In a real-life confrontation or debate, you don’t get much of a chance to ponder what has just been said before you need to respond. The internet is not like that, and it’s something I suggest taking advantage of as much as possible. Taking some time to re-read and ponder what someone has just thrown at you before responding is good for a variety of reasons:

— You might have misinterpreted something the first time through and a second read can suddenly make the actual intent clear.

— You might glean some new information that you missed the first time through, which could be necessary for a proper rebuttal.

— It gives you a chance to calm down and collect yourself, which can keep you from resorting to name-calling or personal attacks, or otherwise letting your emotions get the better of you and compromising the effectiveness of your rebuttal.


EDIT: I loved this comment I received from a friend, so I thought I’d share it:

“I also use anecdotes frequently – but! – I use them as illustrative examples, not as facts or proof (unless it is a case of proof that it is POSSIBLE, in which case a sample size of one is all that is needed 😛).”

SOUND OFF: What do you like to see in a conversation? What do you try to avoid?

Casey has a background in writing and journalism – and is known for his mediation and discussion skills. In his spare time he enjoys absorbing, dissecting and disseminating information — particularly in U.S. politics, religion, technology, science, music, gaming, and pop-­culture.

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