Since more and more Americans are communicating with friends, family and colleagues by way of email, I wonder if you’ve experienced the confusion I have with some of my messages.
When you’re speaking face-to-face, your nonverbal cues, such as hand gestures, facial expressions and tone of voice, can make your meaning clear even if your words are ambiguous. But if the person sending the email intends to be funny, for example, she “hears” that tone as she types and doesn’t anticipate that the recipient may read her words literally, resulting in misunderstandings and even hurt feelings. (Oh, my! I wonder how many folks I’ve offended.)
We dash off emails quickly, forgetting that a sentence is supposed to have both a subject and a predicate. Remember, multiple exclamation points at the end of a sentence don’t take the place of a subject. We can’t be bothered to use a spell-checker, forget everything we ever knew about capitalization and punctuation, and work hard to preserve our precious natural keystroke resources by typing “u” for you, “2” for to, and “b4” for before. And then we wonder why what we write is misinterpreted.
Having said all this, may I add that I’m probably the worst offender of all since I’m perpetually in a hurry. My yahoo account doesn’t spell check so far as I know, and I’ve caught some humdingers after the note has already been sent and I can’t take it back.
Sure we can use emoticons, those silly little punctuation combinations that kinda sorta look like a smiley face if you tilt your head to the side, and squint. Yet in spite of all these tools that make you feel like a 12-year-old girl no matter what your actual age and sex, it’s still amazingly hard to make sure you get your point across.