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1001 Computer Words You Need to Know$
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Jerry Pournelle

Print publication date: 2004

Print ISBN-13: 9780195167757

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: November 2020

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780195167757.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM OXFORD SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (oxford.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Oxford University Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in OSO for personal use. date: 17 October 2021

A Quick Guide to Writing Online English

A Quick Guide to Writing Online English

(p.235) A Quick Guide to Writing Online English
1001 Computer Words You Need to Know

Jerry Pournelle

Oxford University Press

What is Online English? Online English is simply the English that people use online. That’s it. That’s all. Unfortunately, “Online English” when described that way, seems to bring with it an air of either trepidation or disdain. Trepidation, in that many people believe that they will not be able to understand what “these kids today” are writing online, or disdain, in that they can’t imagine why anyone would care what “these kids today” are writing online. The mental image is of a chatroom screen filled with TLAs (three-letter acronyms), emoticons, and enough exclamation points to outfit an entire shelf of melodramatic novels. The emoticons and acronyms are but a small part of Online English. The secret of Online English is this: it’s very close to a language you already know, and know well: Informal English. The confusion comes about because, offline, you speak Informal English much more than you write it. Sure, you might dash off a quick postcard to a friend, or leave a sticky note on a co-worker’s chair, but for the most part, when you are using Informal English, you’re speaking it. Online, of course, you write much more than you talk—it’s just that your online writing is (or should be, for the most part) much like conversation. The different kinds of Online English can be described much like the different kinds of conversation. At the most formal, Online English can be like the conversation at a professional meeting, with prepared remarks and considered dialogue. Many blogs and academic discussion groups have this tone. The point of these online discussions is to get ideas across clearly and succinctly, with a certain amount of style—not stiltedly or slangily, but certainly with the end goal of clarity and mutual understanding. Many blogs, if printed out and divorced from their web associations, would read just as well as many newspaper op-ed columns. No emoticons here! Think of this level as being the same as an informal business memo.

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