I remember using a typewriter. A lot of people don’t. Actually, I think a lot of people that used a typewriter don’t remember using one, either. I also remember writing letters. By hand. With a pen. In cursive. What happened? Not to the methods – but to the writing.
Like most professionals these days, I use email. I get a lot of email, and I send a lot of responses. I hate email. Within my work teams, I try to encourage project management and cloud-based information and communication tools rather than email, because (a) it cuts down on email and (b) everyone has access to it always. It makes sense to organize a team.
But it still suffers from the same problem that email has fostered. It’s thought vomit.
When you used a typewriter or, to a lesser extent, wrote a letter, it took effort. You had to get paper, set up the typewriter or find a good pen, and actually think about what you were saying. Sometimes you even drafted your thoughts beforehand, so as to create a cohesive correspondence. It took effort and, more importantly, more thought.
Then, you mailed the item. And it took a while to get to your recipient. If you made a mistake on the address or forgot to add postage, it might take weeks to get there, get returned to sender or, worse, just get lost in the mail (all phrases some people undoubtedly use today without any idea what they actually mean).
Today, you just puke out your thoughts in an email or text or something, but it’s a jumbled, incomplete mess, requiring the recipient to clean it up. If I had a nickel for how many times I’ve held someone’s email hair, patted them on the back and wrote, “I’m sorry, could you clarify? I could not tell your intentions through the gargled mess you just uttered” I’d be loaded. I’d also be able to afford hiring some young person to vomit for me.
Imagine if you wrote a letter to your colleague in England, explaining that you required additional widgets to complete your task. Then, your colleague was forced to write back, asking (a) to which widget are you referring, and (b) how many is “additional”? Then you wrote back saying, “the blue one”, and he wrote back saying, “but there are two blue ones” and then you responded with “the light blue one” and then he responded again “fine, then how many do you need?” and then your response never got back because by that time you died of old age, considering it was 1805 and a letter to England takes three months to get there.
Try this: compose your emails like a letter. Put the person’s name on top. Compose your thoughts. Sign off on the bottom. Then read it. Does it make sense? Does it convey all the information you need to convey? If responding to questions, did you answer them all?
This seems remedial, and much too helpful for my usual posts, but damnit do us all a favor and read your emails. Don’t make us have to write back, asking you to answer the question again that we already asked you to answer. If your thoughts are more of a dumb-bomb than a laser-guided weapon, you might need to clarify.
Or, just keep puking. Eventually the coherent among you will clean up your mess. Just don’t be expected to be invited to any parties.