In order to understand remedial work, I think it is useful to assume that the actor and those who witness him can imagine (and have some agreement regarding) one or more "worst possible readings," that is, interpretations of the act that maximize either its offensiveness to others or its defaming implications for the actor himself. This ugliest imaginable significance I shall call the "virtual offense." This name is selected because the remedial activity that follows a possibly offensive act very often can be understood best by assuming that the actor has these worst possible readings in mind as that which he must respond to and manage. Note that the virtual offense has largely a cautionary effect, detailing what everyone concerned must be careful to avoid confirming. It should be added that to speak of a virtual offense requires speaking of a "virtual offender," the individual most likely to be perceived as the party at fault, and a "virtual claimant," the individual who is the most obvious choice for he whose claims have been infringed.