I remember reeling when I first heard the word “netiquette”. It’s not exactly a beautiful or sexy incarnation of the English language. But recently I’ve come to appreciate and enact my own form of internet decorum. I’ve decided it’s time to bring cordiality back to online communication.
Why? Because we’ve all gone too far. Come on, you know what I’m talking about – the one word email, the sentence without any punctuation – no “dear”, no “hello”, no “thanks” and no “goodbye”.
Last week saw the publication of excerpts from a new biography of Barack Obama. Most striking were his letters to an old college girlfriend. The writing was lengthy and impressively intellectual (though lacking in a bit of spice). But beyond this, the notes also sang of another age – a time when people actually sent handwritten letters to each other.
Even in our youthful Monocle office, many of us still remember when using ink and paper to communicate was normal. We had pen friends as children, we wrote pointless letters of gossip to school pals or sent lengthy and often regrettable notes of affection to long lost loves. It’s a topic that stirs up feelings of nostalgia.
There’s something about a written letter that seems to reveal more of a person than one composed onscreen. It comes from the heart, we think. Psychologists have told us you can even tell something about a person by the shape of the letters on the page or the way they hold their pen.
This art of the letter is a long way from some of the emails I’ve been receiving recently. And to be fair, I’ve sent a few shockers myself too – “got it”, “what?” and the succinct, “FYI”.
We’re not doing ourselves any favours here. And we’re also running the risk of being horribly misinterpreted. Do I want the person on the other end of my mail to think I don’t have time for them? That I’m annoyed or impatient? Perhaps so, but isn’t that best left for face-to-face or telephone communication? Or at the very least it deserves a beginning, middle and end.
So from now on, I’m tackling this in the old-fashioned way. I’m bringing letter writing back to email.
Dear nameless colleague or friend,
I’m feeling quite annoyed about something that you’ve done so I’m going to come over and talk to you about it/phone you now rather than send an email.
Thanks and best wishes,