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You can turn off the blinkies (in your preferences), but I don't know of a way to turn off the icons Linda is referencing. They are much more prominent than they used to be.
Thanks for the tip about "escape" Mary - i didn't know that - that's handy!
Here's how to turn the icons off in IE.
Create a text file on your hard disk. Name it mystylesheet.css. Put this one line in it:
Go to Tools / Internet Options in your browser. Click on the Accessibility button at the bottom of the dialog. Check the box that says "format documents using my stylesheet". Click the browse button to find mystylesheet.css. Click the OK button in both pop-up windows to close them. Close and reopen your browser.
Next time you visit the discussion forums, the icons will be gone.