Thursday, April 19, 2012

Sometimes It's How You Say It.....

My daughter has a close friend whose mother is an English teacher.  The other day my daughter came home laughing over the following sentence game (emphasize a different word each time you read it):

I never said I stole your money.
I never said I stole your money.
I never said I stole your money.
I never said I stole your money.
I never said I stole your money.
I never said I stole your money.
I never said I stole your money.

Many of you know I happen to love language and playing with words.  I find this game so fun because it so clearly illustrates the principles of tone and inflection and how incredibly important they are in our communications. I am a natural smart-aleck and the advent of email and instant messaging was really challenging for me at first.  (I am quite certain the emoticons saved my bacon more than once.)

It bears repeating that in any online communications (facebook, twitter or otherwise) we need to be doubly aware that our audience cannot read our inflection.  If you happen to be writing a sentence that depends on inflection for interpretation you will need to augment it with emoticons or other devices to demonstrate where the proper emphasis should be.  Those of us who "write like we talk" run into this more often than we would care to admit.

If you are writing a message to fellow staff members, board members or volunteers, try to craft your words carefully and beware of leaving opportunities open for individuals to put their mental emphasis at a different place in the sentence than you intended them to.  If they do, they might assign an entirely different meaning to words that you thought were as clear as a bell and you might end up creating more problems than you solve.  

I never meant for you to think that. LOL.

Remember, as addicted as we are to communication via text, etc., the phone is still your best friend in terms of preventing misunderstandings due to tone and inflection. Video is also a critical competency we all need to develop.

Now, I am not sure that "tone and inflection" will always be as important as they are now in online communications.  They seem to be very important for Boomers and Gen Xers but I will admit to being somewhat perplexed by the "toneless" communications my daughters seem to engage in with their peers on facebook and twitter.  I'm not convinced that "tone" in online communications will be as nuanced as we have made it in the past as we go forward.  But that is a topic for another post.

Have fun with your words this week....use them artistically but more importantly, genuinely......


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