Friday, 12 November 2010

Aggressive Anonymous

It’s funny how we need writing to establish terms formally and make sure there are no holes in agreements, and yet writing often leads to many misunderstandings.

The lack of intonation, visual feedback and personal connotations or context can often make the reader understand a completely different message. This is where sarcasm is so dangerous in emails. A few months ago a friend of mine wrote an email saying something like “so and so was as horrible and mean as usual”. I didn’t know this other person and I had no background on their relationship so I immediately raised my hackles up and felt annoyed at this stranger. Luckily my friend then made it quite clear that it had only been sarcasm and her intention had been the opposite. They were in fact very good friends and she was far from being horrible or mean.

Writing is such a powerful tool and we have to be very careful with how we use it. A few days ago, an anonymous blogger tried to explain their knowledge on a topic but their tone was quite offensive. My first reaction was to ignore their message even if the contents were interesting, even if I eventually decided to focus on the information and not the tone for my own benefit. Maybe their intentions were honourable and only meant to help, but their choice of words came across differently and caused a sense of rejection.

I’ve found this across several blogs lately, where people seemed to be nasty just for the fun of it, and in many cases they didn’t really contribute or give any constructive criticism. I've noticed they are mostly people writing under a pseudonym and this must give them the impulse to be nasty without restraints. I can’t help wondering, what’s the point of doing this? Is there a new trend called the Anger Blog Therapy? 

I think choosing the right way to convey your message will get you further. The reader will be willing to listen to you if you address them politely, even if they disagree. If you are considerate, tolerant and polite, you are more likely to be heard and your opinion respected.

Have you encountered any of this aggressiveness? I hope not, it makes life so unpleasant.

Note: If you're wondering about the conflictive post I'm talking about, you can see it on Jane Smith's excellent blog How Publishing Really Works, which is always very useful and insightful.


  1. Oooh, good post. This is one of the things I find so very annoying about Twitter (one of the few because as you know, I'm addicted). It's easy to be nasty and "brave" when you aren't face to face...I think the ultra-pedantry that is exhibited is a close relative to this whole topic of tone. How many times as a well known person tweeted something with a type only for tons of ppl to jump on the bandwagon and rub it in their faces?? It is massively irritating, none of us like our mistakes pointed out to us so why do some feel they can do this vigorously over the internet? I'm naturally quite a sarcastic, cutting person, plus I edit for a living so if anyone could be cruel and pedantic, I could...but I hold my tongue. Mostly. Sometimes... :-P

    Um, that may have turned into a bit of a rant..sorry. But excellent blog post, it got me thinking!

  2. Ciara, as an editor I can imagine how many opportunities you get to correct people, but I've never seen you be nasty about it. That's how people will accept your corrections and learn from them.

  3. Good points, Sarah. I thought the commenter you mention was being very rude and snarky and I've seen it a few times lately. You can tell when someone is trying to be genuinely helpful and when they're just showing off their 'superior knowledge', even with the help of facial expression or audible intonation.

  4. I read the original comment that sparked this blog post and I was quite affronted on your behalf, it was definitely more on the rude side than the helpful. Meh to them, I say!

  5. I agree Becca and Ciara, he/she was being rude but luckily the brilliant blog host, Jane Smith, put the "offender" in his/her place.

    In case anyone is wondering which post, it's here: (

  6. Great topic, Sarah! I know what you mean. I try to be very careful about what I address in an email or even on the phone because it's too easy to misconstrue what you really mean. Face-to-face is always best! But since we can't do that in the blogosphere, if I'm ever unsure how I'm coming across, that someone might think I'm being ride, I just don't put anything. I'd rather not leave a comment than have someone be offended by accident!

    Smileys are great for letting people know when you're being silly and joking though!

  7. I haven't read HPRW today - I must head over and check it out. If you read enough Amazon reviews, you quickly come to fear the 'anonymous' reviews - or reviews under strange names. People get out their claws and rip authors to shreds, and it's not just the tone, it's the content! It's terrible.

  8. I once fell out with a good friend because of an email comment. I had meant it to be a joke but she took it the wrong way. All was fine once I'd explained myself but it was a sobering experience. I do try to be careful when wording tweets especially as, quite often, I'm responding to a comment that has long scrolled down and away.

    Regarding people being rude on blogs, I find it totally unacceptable. I have only once received a rude comment. I toyed with the idea of deleting it but decided that it was more negative towards the person who had posted it than towards me. She has never appeared again and thankfully all of you lot of lovely.

  9. I loved this Blog and it brings to my mind of a incident on twitter a few months ago. I heard of a couple of people twittering about another twitterer, they were being very rude and cruel. They beleived no one would see their words as it was rather late, but very sadly the person who they were being very rude about saw the tweets. Needless to say, that person was very upset - no it wasn't me, but the person was so shocked had had the wit to save the tweets before they had been deleted and sent them to me for someone to talk to! The people doing the twittering are well know authors, so why I ask was there a need to be rude and unpleasant, in particular as their prey had said and done nothing wrong, on the contrary they had offered some help!

    How sad that people can use their word power to be powerful in such a negative way. Thank you for this lovely blog.


Recent posts