Sunday, January 28, 2007

Email: Be Careful What You Write

Computer Coaching for Seniors Ottawa, Canada

Ring Ring Ring....

It is 11 o'clock at night and you know there is only one person who would call at this late hour.

"Hi Charlie," you answer.

"Karl, you said you weren't mad at me," Charlie responded.

"I am not mad at you, Charlie. Why do you keep thinking that I am mad at you?"

"Your last email troubled me. You were shouting. WHY WERE YOU SHOUTING?!?"

"Charlie, that is ridiculous! How can you shout through email?"

"Well, your whole email had capital letters. There was not one lower case letter to be found. Words with only capital letters mean one thing: you're shouting. And.. what's up with the exclamation mark? Darn it Karl, my feelings were hurt!!!"


It is very easy to miscommunicate through email because it is only text. It is different when you talk on the phone because you not only have words but you have the tone of voice to help you figure out the message's intent.

Here are some ways you can avoid such miscommunications.

1. Use emoticons. Emoticons are text facial expressions to help portray a sentiment. If you think what you are writing may be taken the wrong way then you should definitely use them. For example:
  • :) means happy. The colon are the eyes and the right bracket is the mouth.
  • :( means sad. The colon are the eyes and the left bracket is the mouth.
2. Unless your intention is to shout, avoid using all upper case letters in your email and exclamation marks. For example:

  • I WENT SHOPPING! - In the email, you are shouting that you went shopping and you sound very angry.
  • I went shopping. - In the email, you are stating you went shopping and you sound neutral.

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