Why email is good

6 May, 2008
Rat Fink

I recently had an ongoing email conversation with a friend; we were trying to sort out an issue that required some back-and-forth contact. In it, he mentioned that he didn’t like email because it was hard to decode; it could sometimes be ambiguous or misleading.

I beg to differ — sort of.

I submit that ambiguity in email is not email’s fault, but rather, the fault of the writer. That sounds a bit harsh, I know, but really — if you are going to say a thing, you need to say it with clarity and with the appropriate tone. Email (or journaling/blogging) is the perfect practice ground for doing exactly that.

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One of the most pervasive problems I see in my high school is poor writing skills. Gone are composition courses at the middle school and high school level. No more spelling tests after the 8th grade. “Writing Workshop” classes are nowhere to be found. Teachers have to struggle to cram all the information they can into a short time in order to get the students ready for standardized tests. It’s a bigger problem than you might think. What’s the saying about every action having an equal and opposite reaction?

I know people with masters degrees who couldn’t diagram a sentence at gunpoint, or who honestly don’t know the difference between their, they’re and there. Some may say to me (and have said to me), “So what? It’s just a word.” Wrong, sir. As I’ve likely ranted here before, I believe that how a person writes reflects how he thinks. Not that you have to be all English professor all the time (that would be boring), but cripes, when you have a serious thing to say, don’t munge it up by using horrible grammar. Learn the parts of speech, fuh cryin’ out loud.

The Good Book says that whatever we sow, we shall also reap. That means if we don’t teach our kids to express themselves in a cogent and intelligent manner when they are children, what will the business and professional world look like when they are grown and leading our country? That, my friends, is what I mean when I post my favorite graphic:

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Ok. <<straightening hair and skirt>> Where was I? Oh yeah. Email.

I think email is a great exercise in learning how to communicate in writing. Instead of saying, “Ah, I’d rather just call or talk in person,” try writing. If you can’t seem to say what you want to say, keep working. Use trial and error. Revise; edit. If you’re a terrible typist, there’s no time like the present to practice.

Please try not to think of me as overly critical. I have plenty of personal work to do, so I ain’t no stone-thrower. I just worry about a nation of leaders with an innate aversion to punctuation, and who can’t do much more than write text message shorthand.

Writing a nice, sizable email (or a blathering, bloviating blog post like this one) is good for you. Now take your medicine. There’s a good luv.

Mama Fink

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RD
RD
6 May, 2008 5:32 pm

i jus red yur blog & thot id tri to xpres meself w clearity. howamidoin; sirrusly I wholeheartedly agree with you. I’ve read some papers written by graduate students that contain horrible grammar, poor sentence structure and wrong punctuation. But, I’m also the king of the run on sentence! Regarding emails, I have discovered that, because they do not communicate tone of voice or body language, they are sometimes misunderstood. This is particularly important when the topic of the email contains a somewhat touchy or even critical subject or issue. I’ve discovered that people often read negativity, sarcasm and criticism… Read more »