How Not to Appear Crazy on the Internet

Frank Fleming is my new hero.  He has written a very useful guide on how to avoid appearing crazy on the Internet.

Caps Lock Is Your Enemy

Look at your keyboard. On the left should be a button labeled “Caps Lock.” Now, there should be a light somewhere indicating whether the Caps Lock key is on. You want that light to be off. If you can’t find the indicator light, try typing on screen. Do you see lower case letters? If not, hit the Caps Lock key and try typing again. When you get your keyboard to the state where it normally types lower case letters, NEVER EVER TOUCH THE CAPS LOCK KEY EVER AGAIN! I can use it because I’m a professional, but you crazy people just need to leave that key alone. This tip by itself will make a lot of you look 100% less crazy.

There are basically two kinds of people who type entire comments with Caps Lock on: stupid people and crazy people. And no one wants to read what either has to say. Now, a stupid person just doesn’t notice or care that his Caps Lock key is on, and someone like that is probably not advanced enough to use the internet. Crazy people, on the other hand, intentionally put the Caps Lock on because they think the reason people haven’t been agreeing with their crazy is that they didn’t say it loud enough. This is crazy person logic, and it is wrong.

And there is another type of Caps Lock user who doesn’t capitalize whole sentences but INSTEAD capitalizes a few SPECIFIC words for EMPHASIS. Now read a sentence like that aloud, shouting every time you come to a capitalized word, and tell me you do not sound like an absolute freakin’ lunatic. This method can turn even basic known facts into crazy-sounding gibberish (“The SQUARE of the HYPOTENUSE of a RIGHT triangle equals the SUM of the squares of the OTHER two sides”).

Similarly, be frugal with your exclamation points! Not every single sentence should end in one! And never use more than one per sentence!!!!11!!eleventy11!1 If you have something useful to say, it should make just as much sense when said in a normal voice.

Bravo!  I would just add that people who do the opposite – meaning people who never capitalize – are even nuttier.  You see that button on the left-hand side of the computer?  The one right below the caps lock?  Yeah, try pressing that while typing out the first word of a sentence, or of a proper pronoun, and always when typing “I.”  Yeah, that’s not so hard now is it?

There’s more.

i can haz proper grammar?

Here’s another pretty basic one: no lolcats speak. Write actual English sentences using real words and proper grammar. Capitalize the first word of each sentence. Use punctuation. there is no reason ur comment 2 a blog or column shud look lik ur a n00b at texting. You’re not writing these things from a old cellphone with just a number pad that lacks auto-complete; there is a big keyboard in front of you.

You save like 0.1 seconds writing “u” instead of “you” at the cost of making yourself look like an absolute idiot. Is there any reason you’re trying to shave off this time? Are there wild dogs bearing down on you as you write why we need another look at Obama’s birth certificate? If so, run from the wild dogs and write your comment later. Your whole sentence shouldn’t scream, “I’m a useless idiot with nothing important to say.” You should never write like that unless you actually are a cat expressing your desire for a cheeseburger.

This drives me up the wall.  I don’t know if it’s the curse of Twitter, texting, or both, but is it really so hard to write in complete sentences with actual words spelled out?  You don’t have character limits on most blogs, and if you do and are actually somehow bumping up against the limit, then you are running afoul of violating this tip:

No Long Screeds

On the other end of the spectrum from the lolcats speak is the guy who apparently has hours to spare writing pages of response as the 200th comment to some blog post. There are people who have long things to say, and they do it by writing columns or writing in their own blogs. But if you can’t get your column published and no one reads your blog, maybe you’re thinking you’ll get exposure by putting the long screed in the comments section of something people actually will read.

Don’t.

Sane people know that the only people who have hours to spend writing pages of text in a comments section are crazy people. And that’s why no will read what they write except other crazy people with way too much time on their hands. So keep it short. Pick one point, and write no more than a couple of sentences. Keeping it short also helps you police your crazy. I’ve seen comments where I’ve read the first paragraph and thought maybe the person was just a little over-enthusiastic, and then I started the second paragraph and realized, “Oh, this is a super crazy person.” So keep it pithy, and avoid the crazy.

The comments on Fleming’s post are a hoot.  Either it’s a collection of the cleverest people on the planet, or a bunch of dunces who would no doubt look blankly at you if you said the word “irony.”

At any rate, there is more at the link.  I think I will now ask Tito to have this permalinked on the right-hand side.

18 Responses to How Not to Appear Crazy on the Internet

  • Note 1: when you can’t make words italic or bold, the “caps” rule is void.

    Note 2: do not attempt to use list as offensive weapon in argument.

    Note 3: how can they Forget the Randomly Capitalized Word sub-sub-rule? It is one of the True Signs of the Quietly Insane.

    (Seriously, though, most of the calls-in-to-Coast-to-Coast-and-talks-fairies folks I know are otherwise pretty normal. It’s like folks are only mostly sane. If someone’s entirely sane, there’s only one thing you can do: go through their pockets and look for loose change.)

  • This is a great way to start out the day! Some additional thoughts for appearing sane on the internet:

    1. Do not mention the illuminati.
    2. Do not start writing about alien abductions on a thread for a post about a totally different subject.
    3. Do not have more than three links built into your comment.
    4. Do not routinely respond to a 500 word post with a 2000 plus comment.
    5. Do not immediately start comparing complete strangers on the internet you encounter in terms that would seem harsh if applied to Adolph Hitler.
    6. Speaking of Hitler and his killer cronies, do not compare attempts to enforce traffic laws to the Nazis, or any of the other mere annoyances that you encounter in run ins with the government.
    7. If you are going to use a nom de internet, do not use one that is deliberately offensive.
    8. Threats of physical mayhem merely convince your readers that your Mom needs to restrict your use of the internet in her basement.
    9. Before commenting on historical events, it is really nice to first learn something about the historical event.
    10. If in a thead the comments are one hundred and eighty of them are yours, that is probably not a good sign.

  • Foxfier:

    I think the occasional bold is fine, especially if there is no HTML available in the comments. More than two and I stop reading.

    Don:

    That’s a good addendum. Number 9 should be on the masthead.

  • Well, I have violated these rules (or parts of them) at one time or another, so I must conclude I am crazy. Actually, I concluded that long before I read this little piece. I do nevertheless agree with the requirement to use good grammar and to actually learn something about the history concerning which one is writing; however, the occasional typographical or editorial error is forgivable. But on occasion I do place a significant word in capital letters, especially when it isn’t possible to electronically underline a word or place it in bold font, for example, “Vote AGAINST Obama in 2012.” ;-)

    Yup, I am crazy and perhaps happily so. ;-)

  • MR ZUMO I FIND YOUR VIEWZ INTRIGUING AND WISH TO SUBSCRIBE TO YOUR NEWSLETTER.

    WEATHER IS A MYTH.

  • ur such a n00b dale

  • RL:

    SPOKEN LIKE A MAN WHO UNDERSTANDZ NEETHER PLATO’S ANALOGY OF THE CAVE NOR THE INFIELD FLY RULE; IN FACT, YOU CANNOT COMPREHEND THE METRICS OF AMBROSE BURNSIDE’S TACTICS AT KNOXVILLE NOR THE NIHILISTIC STYLINS OF SOUPY SALES QED 54-40 OR FIGHT

  • And, yes, I am aware that I can “do” crazy well, thank you very much.

  • Haha Dale. What I thought was most humorous about the original article is that the author could have compiled it after reading just one comment by digbydolben.

  • SPOKEN LIKE A MAN WHO UNDERSTANDZ NEETHER PLATO’S ANALOGY OF THE CAVE NOR THE INFIELD FLY RULE; IN FACT, YOU CANNOT COMPREHEND THE METRICS OF AMBROSE BURNSIDE’S TACTICS AT KNOXVILLE NOR THE NIHILISTIC STYLINS OF SOUPY SALES QED 54-40 OR FIGHT

    I take it you have had exchanges with Vox Day as well.

  • RL:

    Heh–wasn’t thinking of him, but he’s as windy as they get. I wouldn’t call him crazy, just a loudmouth in love with the sound of his own voice.

    Art: Yep, a few. But I honestly wasn’t thinking of that locale, either. If anything, the commenters at the Reporter fit the bill better than anything. There’s a few straight-up loons over there.

  • I really need to proof my own posts. Sigh.

  • McClary has an interesting take on the matter.

  • Commenting in the form of headline doesn’t always do the trick. But points well taken. Still it isn’t as if the internet is actually people’s living room. It’s a lovely thought but it’s still essentially a reflection of the wider culture.

  • One form of internet crazy I find especially annoying is the ability of some commenters to turn non-political subjects into raging political debates. Anything from celebrity gossip to gas prices to bad weather can veer off into a liberal vs. conservative rant, or an “It’s all Obama’s fault!” vs. “But it was all Bush’s fault first!” screed. I would call this the Bush-Obama Corollary to Godwin’s Law (about the likelihood of Hitler or the Nazis being dragged into any combox debate).

  • Agreed, Elaine. It’s a shame that even the fluffiest of stuff gets filtered through a partisan political lens. Not everything is political, ya know.

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