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This conceptual paper suggests how politeness theory by P. Brown and S. Levinson (1987) - well known in anthropological and linguistic literatures -can contribute to the study of role relations in computer-mediated communication. Politeness, phrasing things so as to show respect and esteem for the face of others, occurs throughout social interchange. The paper reviews politeness theory and enumerates specific linguistic indices of politeness. It then discusses how recognition of the central role of face-work in social interchange can enhance understanding of why and where emotion-work might occur in CMC, how such emotion-work (in the form of politeness) can be reliably observed and quantitatively measured at a linguistic level of analysis, and how the distribution of politeness phenomena is systematically related to variables of interest in CMC research - such as status, cohesion, impersonality, friendship, and communicative efficiency.