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Re: Tone

From: Anne Pemberton <apembert@erols.com>
Date: Wed, 26 Sep 2001 17:19:15 -0400
Message-Id: <>
To: Charles McCathieNevile <charles@w3.org>, Jonathan Chetwynd <j.chetwynd@btinternet.com>
Cc: WCAG WG <w3c-wai-gl@w3.org>

         With very little to go on other than my experiences, I would 
suggest that tone could be an important consideration with emotionally 
disabled folks, with autistic folks, and with folks who have or have had 
communication disorders (I am thinking of the difficulties with a teenager 
who was given a computer for an artificial voice and hooked into email at 
the same time. Ten years later, he still has difficulties with tone leading 
to frustrations, but they are much diminished from when he was first 
introduced to the world of communication.)

         Yes, e-mail has significant problems due to the inability(or 
failure to use what exists) to express tone, and it's awfully apparent in 
the aftermath of September 11th.  Smiley faces were once a commonly-used 
indication in e-mail that you weren't to be taken too seriously, but they 
fell into disuse. Some mailers provide icons, or emoticons, and then there 
are the chili-pepper flags that I found to be conductive of arguments. 
(folks who used them sent their first draft under the flag instead of 
cooling off and replying carefully - my personal observation 
<grin>)  [Incidently, I use the term <grin> instead of a smiley face 
because I have too several correspondents who use speech readers so to keep 
from checking the "to", I use the word instead of :-) ] .... and when I am 
writing in "stream of consciousness" .... I use four dots instead of commas 
and periods ... these are my conventions, and my correspondents have not 
adopted them from me, so they aren't terribly universal ...

         The concept of tone may be a checkpoint of its own, or it could be 
a detailed recommendation under 3.3 on writing clearly and simply ... I do 
not think tone can be tested, certainly not as "scientifically" as 
readability.  It's OK to "talk down" to young children, but it's very 
inappropriate to do so with adults who have cognitive abilities measured in 
children's ages/etc.


At 02:44 PM 9/26/01 -0400, Charles McCathieNevile wrote:
>Yes, I think that in terms of qualitative things like the quicktips it is
>easy to make a statement. I am wondering if we can get a bit more precise
>(ever trying to get "more specific" <grin/>). I think that we could probably
>give more useful advice still, and we could in particular find information
>about how to assess what the tone of something is, and how to change it.
>I am not sure how critical this is to accessibility - I know that it does
>make a difference in some cases, but whether it is the sort of thing that we
>have called a priority 1 requirement - a total block for people - or whether
>it is somewhere closer to priority 3 - it is helpful to people is something I
>think we need to think about more as we go along.
>This is going to be particularly challenging in the area of WCAG. But
>interesting and worthwile nonetheless. I look forward to more thinking on
>I think this might be one of the things that helps us understand what we can
>do and think about with regards to email. I wonder where it will lead us...
>On Wed, 26 Sep 2001, Jonathan Chetwynd wrote:
>   Thanks Chaarls,
>   Really it is worth considering for the quicktips, or something similar that
>   is purely qualitative.
>   Proposed guideline:
>   Please consider the spirit or tone that would introduce your content to 
> best
>   effect?
>   An inappropriate tone could alienate your audience.
>   People from different have very different expectations.
>   when I get a moment, I'll try to dream up a few more tones.
>   In the meantime any suggestions welcome.
>   I'd expect a decent collection to help us expand this rather minimalist
>   guideline.
>   so far:
>   dissonant from DP
>   confrontational
>   authoritarian
>   entertaining
>   educational:
>   academic
>   childish (talking down)
>   commercial(heavy sales)
>   inappropriate (content, humour...)
>   technical(jargon laden)
>   tx
>   jonathan chetwynd
>   IT teacher (LDD)
>   j.chetwynd@btinternet.com
>   http://www.peepo.com         "The first and still the best picture 
> directory
>   on the web"
>Charles McCathieNevile    http://www.w3.org/People/Charles  phone: +61 409 
>134 136
>W3C Web Accessibility Initiative     http://www.w3.org/WAI    fax: +1 617 
>258 5999
>Location: 21 Mitchell street FOOTSCRAY Vic 3011, Australia
>(or W3C INRIA, Route des Lucioles, BP 93, 06902 Sophia Antipolis Cedex, 

Anne Pemberton

Received on Wednesday, 26 September 2001 17:40:47 UTC

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