On this blog I really am concentrating more on interpersonal communication; face-to-face communication, addressing groups, personal impact, body language, mindset, that sort of thing. However, I think it’s worth blogging about the mistakes people make in written communication which don’t exist elsewhere. It’s all too easy to forget that people aren’t going to pick up on subtext or humour as easily in an email or letter as they are when looking at your face and listening to your voice.
You have to be very careful with anything unsaid or left only hinted upon in text because, unless you’re writing a novel or you’re very familiar with the addressee, meaning can be lost if it isn’t obvious, and can easily be taken the wrong way. We’ve all had neurotic moments where we read a text message or an email and thought ‘ are they being sarcastic?’ Or ‘What do they mean by that?’ Well think about that when you’re writing your next email. People can’t see the usual clues to seriousness or sarcasm; they can’t see you wink, furrow your brow, they can’t hear you sigh, or pick up on your tone, and people won’t read your writing as you read it. There is often no congruence between written words and suggested meaning, simply because there isn’t that connection that is palpable between voice and body language.
This isn’t to say that you have to write emails or text like a robot, and in informal situations the dreaded emoticon can actually be of use, as long as you don’t go over-the-top. But try not to be unnecessarily ambiguous, nor over explanatory. Just like verbal communication, written communication should aim to be succinct, clear, and appropriate for its audience.