I help look after a number of forums, and it's always an interesting question what should and should not be allowed in terms of language and topic. Leaving aside issues of subject and content which would make another whole article, I have tidied up some notes on language and style for one of the forums and felt it is worth sharing. You are welcome to use these notes as a basis for any forums that you run, but please provide a link back to Well House Consultants at http://www.wellho.net and / or The Coffeeshop at http://www.firstgreatwestern.info/coffeeshop for our mutual benefit.
What is acceptable language and style on "The Coffeeshop"?
A brief guide for new posters, who should remember that this forum can be read by anyone and everyone, including children, the train company we travel with (or in the case of Melksham WISH to travel with), and groups and individuals who we may criticise .. and who we may wish to talk to and work with in the future.
1. The words that "I can't bring myself to type" - you know the ones, I'm sure - certainly are out. And, no, I am not coming up with a list.
2. The "arse", "scum", "bastard", "moron" level - certainly out when used to refer to a member, an identifiable person, or one of a small group of people. Probably out too when used to talk about larger groups - a very slightly grey area there. But some of these words have to be acceptable in their original meaning. "There was a horrid scum on the coffee I was served in the buffet at Dilton Marsh station" has to be AOK.
3. Calling an identified person a "silly cow" or "twit" starts getting even more questionable. Again I would say "no" when an identified person, but the team behind the scenes does not wish to drive you to come up with colourful new phrases which might be even more difficult to moderate.
4. It has to be a case by case basis with many of the lesser terms and content which may offend by its combination of totally innocent words. I personally found a comment that I felt to be sarcastic referring to me as "his holiness" to be offensive, although I let it go by without comment at the time as it provided me with a useful reminder of my place. And that also reminded me just how many others may be offended from time to time, but not say anything!
The moderation team takes a delight in the fact that there a number of us moderating. Any poster who seriously transgressed the acceptable level of any one of the group may get asked to change his/her language (or have it changed), so we cannot
be 100% predictable and people should if in doubt, leave it out
a. I would like to discourage the use of texting language as it's not universally understood. We have a common language in English and we're talking about a British company and operation in England and Wales - so really we should all stick to posts in standard English to be universally understood by our readers.
b. Please try to cut down on the number of acronyms you use - we DO have an acronym page
on which I try to list them all as they come up, but at times I get my GOSW mixed up with my GOBLs - so what must it do to the newcomers? If you introduce an acronym to make your post less verbose, please define it the first time in full.
c. Whilst we don't wish to go round and round (and round and round) the same subject in a thread, remember that we are rapidly growing and that there are many newcomers here all the time - and guests, and people who find our pages via search engines. So you are encouraged to go back to basics, provide full explanations, re-open matters that we discussed a couple of months back, and should NOT assume that everyone is up to speed. Established posters - if you see a subject repeating itself in a short timescale, please help us by adding a link back to the old subject so that we can keep "churning" at acceptable levels.
In spite of the comments above, the general approach to moderation is a "lighter touch" with moderators very much looking to facilitate the use and usefulness of the board. Typically, we will NOT jump in and correct spellings nor grammatical errors, nor alter posts that we feel could have been explained better in another way - after all, it's your forum. We may point out via a personal message that a post could be understood in two different ways if we feel there could be a chance the original poster didn't realise this. As a "backstop" we (or rather I as the administrator) have a legal responsibility to act on posts that are (or may be considered) indecent, incite hatred, incite illegal actions, break copyright laws, are libelous and a whole host of other things which - thank you everyone
- are very rare indeed here. (written 2008-03-04)
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