In e-mail we’re told to not be sarcastic as it is really easy to misconstrue a message. Something like
No, those pants don’t make you look fat, but the sandals do!
might be funny in person, but in e-mail it can totally be taken the wrong way (not as a joke, rather as a personal jab).
We can make this mistake in e-mail, IM, SMS, blog posts, comments, social networking (Twitter, LinkedIn Answers, Facebook Walls, etc.)… we have plenty of opportunities to make the mistake!
Instead of suggesting things to do to not mess up there, let me suggest something that you should do if you get crossed in one of these forums. Actually, this is excellent advice if you get crossed anywhere.
Presume good intent.
It’s easy to get fired up after reading something. Some people commenting on my post about GenY being a bunch of Whiners (actually, I titled the post “SOUNDS LIKE” instead of “ARE” for a reason) presumed bad intent.
But many commenters saw this post as a discussion, a conversation… not an ultimatum or conclusion. Some presumed good intent and joined in the conversation, and it was constructive. Others presumed bad intent and attacked.
When you get an e-mail that sounds attacking, presume good intent, and communicate. You may be surprised that your presumption was right!