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Effective Written Communication is Harder Than Most People Appreciate.

One of the problems plaguing the internet is a failure to effectively communicate. When people leave comments online, a lot of them write similar to how they talk and this tends to go astray.

When you talk to people in person, there are a great many contextual cues that help inform the interpretation of your words. In online written communication, people often mostly have your actual words and those words need to be a great deal more precise and detailed to have any hope of being good communication.

If you use a lot of sarcasm, irony or similar and tend to rely on voice tone to convey your actual intent, you may run into a lot of unexpected drama online. You may need to actively work at using some means to convey your real intent or ditch those habits.

Even seemingly very simple things can go wildly astray when you move from talking to local people who know you well in person to talking to mere acquaintances or strangers. If I write "sodas" on my grocery list, I and relatives who live with me know what that means because we know what flavor we drink, how it gets consumed and myriad other details that inform our shopping choices.

But if I wanted to order groceries online and have them delivered to my door, I couldn't just type in "sodas." I would need to specify a lot of additional information, such as the flavor, bottles or cans, size of the containers and number of each.

Online businesses often leave out bits and pieces of that process because it doesn't occur to the people coding it up that you need to include a bunch of extra details. For example, I have put in a suggestion at Little Caesar's that they should update their online ordering process so I can tell the local Little Caesar's which condiments I want included in my Pizza Portal order.

I would like to see that change both for the sake of convenience and for reasons of germ control. I have a serious medical condition, so germ control was important to me before the pandemic and will remain important to me whenever this gets resolved.

Ordering online and picking up via their Pizza Portal is potentially contactless and extremely quick and convenient for puposes of picking up your takeout order -- assuming you don't need condiments or napkins. If you need any of that stuff, then you need to try to flag down an employee and ask for those things after you pull your food out of the Pizza Portal, which means it's no longer contactless and it takes longer, sometimes a lot longer if they are busy.

If you want to talk online about something like housing, well, what consitutes good housing is highly context dependent. If you are a white collar professional living in a big city in a developed country, you will tend to have a lot of baked-in assumptions behind your words that will likely make most of what you say downright bad advice for subsistence farmers in a small village in a less developed country.

So it's important that you give context when talking about what works, such as the country or city in question, demographic and climatic information and regulatory or financial information. But people often don't do that.

In fact, if they have lived in the same place their whole lives, they may not even realize "This particular housing detail that I think is wonderful is only wonderful because of local climatic conditions. It would be a terrible practice in a different climate." Some part of their brain just thinks the world just works this way globally.

People who have moved around some are more likely to recognize "This detail is good because of this aspect of local conditions." They are more likely to readily see that weather is different in different places and that some elements of local housing tradition are good practices valued by locals because it's a response to the local weather.

People are often shockingly oblivious to the baked-in assumptions behind things they say in writing. In order to clearly communicate with people online who may be all over the world, you need to at a minimum intentionally give a few general contextual cues, like "I am talking about housing policy for the continental US."

You may still be oblivious to your own blind spots and baked-in assumptions, but at least you have given your audience some useful information that will help them go "That doesn't work in my country and I can stop caring what they said. This is not really relevant to me."

That may not actually be true. The underlying ideas might actually be potentially useful for them in their country, but you would need to do a great deal more work to effectively convey the idea in a way that would allow them to see how it might work in their context.

No method of communication is perfect. Sort of like "You can't please all of the people, all of the time" you also can't be understood correctly by all people, all of the time.

But you should be shooting for saying things in a manner that helps people sort out what is relevant to their needs with some degree of confidence and without spending undue amounts of time on making that determination.

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