Discussion Board Postings: When Will They Write a Style Guide?

Have you seen this?

The Yahoo Style Guide.  For writing and editing on the web.

What I really wish is that someone would write a style guide to discussion board posting.  In my online course, I have seen a range of styles. A few of my favorites:

  1. Personal Letter – This is generally in response to someone’s post, although sometimes people just bust this out for their original one.  It goes like this: Dear fellow student, I loved your post!  It echoes my own experience in this fashion.  Don’t you love/hate/feel indifferently toward that?  Me too!  Best, Personal Letter Poster
  2. Practicing for my Thesis – This is a very professional type posting.  It may even contain citations.  References to the teacher will use either the Doctor or Professor title.
  3. Practicing for my Novel – Similar to the Practicing for my Thesis posting, but with more emotion and fewer citations.  Generally very very long.
  4. What are Spel Chek? – This style flows freely from the student’s brain, without the artificial limitations of spell check or attempts to self edit.
  5. OMG I FORGOT!!!! –  Generally a very short post, anywhere from an hour to weeks after the deadline.

I have used every one of the above styles during my time at SLIS.  In an online environment, discussion boards act to emulate the in-class student-to-student exchange of ideas.  But without the mitigation of body language, writing tone takes on a whole new level of significance.  I’ve agonized over phrasing, and then over compensated by dashing the next post off cavalierly.  If there was a formula, a set number of lines, a glossary for word choice, a prescription for headings, a style guide to posting, things would be so much simpler.

But part of learning is learning how to communicate within a context.  Each professor is different, and each student is different. Responding and participating within the course is a process of feeling things out.  When learning gets serious, we forget that school is a place to make mistakes.  It is a place to discover how to speak and be understood, as much as it is a place for theory and concepts.

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