Guess what you have?
Email, forums and chat!
I've seen time after time that unwanted conflict creeps into electronic communication when one of two things happens:
- Someone tries to type a mail with clever and subtle sarcasm that isn't conveyed with the words they use,
- someone reads into the message tone and meaning that it was never intended to have.
There is one good way to try and avoid this, though:
Be over-sensitive to your own writing.
Be flat-out paranoid about ways you communicate. If there's ever a question, be clear instead of funny. It'll save you heartache.
At the same time:
Be cautious about how you allow other people's writing to affect you.
A lot of times, reading something a second or third time, and thinking of it from several angles of intent, will give you a completely different interpretation of what someone meant. If you are still unsure, ask them PRIVATELY before escalating and arming in public.
Bottom line: realize that written communication is rarely clear. Very, very few people write with skill enough to communicate correct intention. It always pays to clarify before engaging any interesting emotions.