LINGUIST List 12.2316

Wed Sep 19 2001

Qs: "Netiquette" on Linguist

Editor for this issue: Karen Milligan <>

We'd like to remind readers that the responses to queries are usually best posted to the individual asking the question. That individual is then strongly encouraged to post a summary to the list. This policy was instituted to help control the huge volume of mail on LINGUIST; so we would appreciate your cooperating with it whenever it seems appropriate.


  1. Richard Sproat, Netiquette on Linguist

Message 1: Netiquette on Linguist

Date: Tue, 18 Sep 2001 23:06:12 -0400
From: Richard Sproat <>
Subject: Netiquette on Linguist

The following message relates to standards of behavior that seem a
minimal requirement when using a resource like the Linguist List.
I wonder how many people have found the following situation as
frustrating as I have: 

Someone posts a query to the List. (It could also be a request
directed to you personally, but for the present discussion let's
assume it's a general query to the List.) You read the query, believe
you may have an answer, and then spend the next half an hour or more
checking your data and then composing a thoughtful response. You
naturally expect that whoever posted the query will get back to you in
the next couple of days with a short note of acknowledgment, one or
two sentences, nothing more. But the acknowledgment note never
arrives. In some cases, perhaps, there will be a summary to the List
in which you are publicly thanked, in which case you feel better. But
in many cases the individual who posted the query never posts a
summary, so your efforts are never acknowledged.

I am sure this has happened to many: I myself have lost track of the
number of times this has happened to me. The question is: why does it
happen? How long can it possibly take to compose a short message
thanking someone for their input? Why is it so hard to make that
effort when it is clear that someone has spent a great deal more
effort in answering the question that was originally posed? Is that
asking too much? If anyone can think of good answers to these
questions, I would love to hear them. (And yes, you will be thanked
for your input, that's guaranteed.)

Why do I care enough about this to post this message, and why is it
relevant to the list? Because I believe that this lack of manners on
the part of some can have a negative effect on the intended function
of the List. I will admit that whenever I see a query that I might
answer, but which I know it will take me some time to answer, I always
think to myself: do I want to spend the time to do this, knowing that
there is a good possibility that I will end up feeling frustrated if
the querier fails to give so much as a minor acknowledgment to my
efforts? In many cases I simply don't bother: it does not seem to be
worth the effort.

It seems to me that this should not be.


Richard Sproat Human/Computer Interaction Research AT&T Labs -- Research, Shannon Laboratory
Tel: +1-973-360-8490 180 Park Avenue, Room B207, P.O.Box 971
Fax: +1-973-360-8809 Florham Park, NJ 07932-0000
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