Why Emails are Misunderstood

Earlier today Slashdot was running a story about how people tend to misinterpret emails. I read the article, and I think it is was outrageously ridiculous. Here is what I originally posted in reply thread:

I call bullshit on this!

Writing an email, is almost exactly the same as writing an informal letter. You know, one that you put into envelope and drop into the mailbox. How many slashdot readers still correspond with friends or family on paper? And no, postcards, and wish cards don’t count!

It seems to be a dying art nowadays, but for hundreds of years people used snail mail to communicate with each other. And for the most part, we figured out how to deal with the ambiguity of the language. You simply articulate your thoughts. Instead of writing one short ambiguous sentence, you can always write 3, that will clearly state your position, intent and indicate your tone. This is what they should teach you in an English class. Why did you think they make you write all these essays, and position papers in your English classes. Written communication is as important as verbal communication, if not more.

English language is not ambiguous! We do not need verbal clues, and tone of voice to convey meaning. Think about it – somehow novel writers, poets, journalists and bloggers have no problems communicating their messages using written word. And yet, the second they start composing an email, all their English skills somehow disappear and they revert to using emoticons, boldface and italics.

No, the #1 reason why emails are misinterpreted is that people who send and read them have poor written communication and reading comprehension skills to begin with.

I use email every day. It is actually my preferred mode of communication. And even though English is my second language, my messages are very rarely misinterpreted. In the rare cases someone misunderstands me, I actually go to a great length to re-phrase what I said and set the record straight in a follow-up email. >>

Seriously people! There is nothing wrong with email as a medium of communication. Writing an email is no different than typing a letter in word. The fact that you write an email does not excuse poor grammar, or ambiguously worded sentences. If your email was misunderstood it is entirely your fault! Emails simply allows us to expose the retards whose mastery English is suboptimal.

If you can’t type up a coherent answer immediately, take 5-10 minutes to organize your thoughts, and then proof-read your message before hitting the send button. And if that is still too difficult for you, you should be required to go back and retake your basic high school English courses cause you are clearly illiterate.

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