In addition to words,
vocal expression and body language all play a significant role in helping
people to interpret messages.
That's why writing
is the most difficult form of communication. Readers cannot see or hear
excitement, a twinkle in the eye, a quizzical look or anger. They only
have the words on paper or screen.
the warning that today we should write as we speak, there are a few
basic truths we can't ignore.
comments seldom work on paper. Humour relies on timing, voice inflection
and body language, as well as words. Written, humourous comments often
come across as sarcastic remarks.
A chairman once
tried to get his association's members to hurry up with their registrations
by writing, "I would personally appreciate your attending to this
because I have other things I would rather spend my limited time doing
than following up with your renewal." He claims he was being funny.
Others thought he should resign from his post, if he was so busy.
is hard to convey. John handed his boss, Tim, the hard copy of a presentation
he had been working on. Tim made some minor revisions and returned the
material with a brief note saying, "Fine." John was deflated.
He had spent long hours ensuring this presentation was outstanding,
and he believed he deserved better praise than this.
Later Tim met John
in the hall and again mentioned the word "Fine." But this
time it was accompanied by an enthusiastic tone and a pat on the back.
John immediately felt 100 percent better. If Tim read his correspondence
aloud before he sent it-without any vocal expression-he would have a
better understanding of how the receiver would read it.
is also a problem. Many readers object to being called by their first
name by writers they have never met. Yet if they were meeting face-to-face
with that same stranger, they wouldn't have a problem using first names.
On initial correspondence, use a formal salutation: Dear Mr. Brown:
or Dear Ms. Smith: or Dear K.W. Black:
style calls for you to write more informally than you would have ten
years ago. Remember, the correspondence must still be interpreted by
an unseen audience.