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  • Jacqueline Le Sueur

Words Matter

In the ever-increasingly digital age in which we live words are as important as they ever were...perhaps more.

We all know that the word we say, within and of itself, does not carry its most powerful message - that is carried in tone in which it is uttered and the body language that accompanies it. So what of the digitally written word?

In pre-digital days we would walk across the office to talk to a colleague, call upstairs to our kids or pick up the telephone and make a call to our friends on the other side of the globe. Now we are more than likely to email or ‘facebook’ them, post them a tweet or send an sms, even when they are sitting next to us.

By necessity these communications call for brevity or preciseness to a greater or lesser degree but with the passage of time this need seems to be becoming the carte blanche for mashed up grammar and mind-boggling alterations to spellings. OK, that much I can handle. What I am struggling with is the harshness of tone, the abruptness, that is creeping insidiously into digital messaging, especially into business emails.

I received a response to an email last week that was curt to the point of rudeness in its content. I replied to the sender with an apology for seemingly having upset them, even though I had no idea why that should be. The reply I received guided me to take no notice of the tone in the mail as it was written in a hurry.

This gave me pause for thought. Of course I am going to take note of the tone of the words as this is the only other modifier I have to weave life into the words on the page. After all, a written word is still owned by the person that expressed it in the same way as a spoken word is; it is still a representation of that person, of their character, of their relationship, whatever it may be, with their reader.

It made me realise that words really do matter. They matter in their choice and they matter in their expression, be that spoken, written or digitally communicated.

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