My dear Readers,
Ah, the online world. I loathe it, but cannot live without it. Walking around on the earth, one gets a sense that society hangs by a thread of civility, and that it is ready to crumble at a cross word. Being interpersonally polite keeps everyone in check, on a virtuous circle of humanity and so forth, don’t you agree? The ethereal world knows no such bounds. Have you ever looked at a comments board on youtube? Ever received an email from a person who is not old enough to remember email being invented? Do you indulge in ‘text messages’? I shudder at the thought. The horrors of this angry, invective and illiterate world rather terrify me. I suppose there is no hope of improving it, but I might share with you a notion or two.
When I was at school they used to teach letter-writing skills. These could be usefully employed today, I think. An email, after all, is merely a letter by another name. Start an email with ‘Dear…’ and end it appropriately, depending on the level of formality. If you’re writing to a professional of any stamp, don’t assume a first-name basis, but wait instead for the tone of his/her reply and proceed from there. This might involve finding out if the recipient of your message has any professional qualifications. People who are doctors, professors, and so on, tend not to care for unsolicited epistles that begin ‘Hi John’. If it looks like its heading to first-name terms, you might want to consider ‘Dear John (if I may)’ as a way of politely introducing a less formal correspondence. Sentences should be sentences, with the grammar and punctuation of a person able to function in his own language.
I’m pleased to note that the comments I receive from you on these pages generally do you a great credit, being of a thoughtful and literate kind (I wouldn’t publish them otherwise). So much of what is said online needn’t have been written. If one really has nothing to say, one might consider ‘keeping schtum’.
Back in the day when I used to own a cellular telephone, I confess I occasionally sent a text message. These were the heady days of youth. Least said, soonest mended. Still, when I did put my thumbs to work in this most unnatural fashion my messages were, like my letters, written in full sentences with the correct punctuation. I could not, even then, sully myself with what has become the accepted derogation of the English language. In most cases, if one must communicate so much, I suggest a telephone conversation would be better. It is more personable; more human. So many texts neither say nor mean anything. So why bother?
Wondering what you make of all this, and having gone on too long anyway, I remain
Your humble servant,
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