Cueing letters: On textual paralanguage

Surely we are all well familiar with nonphysical channels of communication, mainly the textual mediums. It is a student corresponding with his advisor, colleagues emailing, online courses forums, the dating applications scene, texting with a friend and so on. These channels are written manifestations of nonverbal cues, and it is surprising how vast and rich these nonverbal and nonphysical cues are.


It is well noticed that on a face to face encounters people are signaling their social competence with varied physical cues. Fidgeting and gesturing, their speech volume and rhythm, postures and facial expressions, are all social signals that affirm, emphasize, or contradict the explicit content in a social occurrence. But where electronic communication plays an extensive channel, our social intelligence is put to the proof. 


While on face to face encounters we have the ability to harvest information that driven from these abovementioned physical signals, on electronic circuits of communication, where these channels are off,  it is one person signaling at a time, and using substitutional cues, each physical cue has its actual nonphysical textual counterpart.


On text-based communication, subtexts are embodied with various elements of nonverbal communication. It is expressed through words, symbols, images, punctuation, demarcations, or any combination of these elements.  These cues can no doubtfully convey attitudes of understanding, reassurance, appreciation, empathy, engagement and encouragement, exactly like the physical face to face ones.


The focus of the message is represented by punctuation and capitalization. The person’s engagement is demonstrated by the text layout, the font style and color, and was the text gone through proofreading. Delineating words by special characters such as star or hyphen convey empathy. Body gestures can literally be replaced with emojis and emoticons. Facial expressions are conveyed by short quick or rather elaborated answers, supportive versus negative words. The commitment for a mutual interest relates to the timing of each response and the frequencies between them.


Textual signaling is becoming relevant to dealmaking communications, and it carries the potential of greater advantage in business. Having the ability to read between the lines of your prospect, gives a better notion regarding the social hierarchy of the current events, and control over it. It increases the chances of having the upper hand over the other delegate and getting the deal right where you aim it.

Tech Entrepreneur, co-founder of SubStrata Technologies

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