Can we talk?

I’m beginning to think communication is not only a lost art, but a lost cause. Has an email yet been sent that wasn’t misinterpreted?

It’s all about tone, and email always conveys the wrong tone. This is why, of course there are smiley-face icons. To pretend you are changing the obviously murderous innuendo in your email request into merry laughter. Everybody is fooled by a smiley face!

Actually, this is why ancient writing was all little pictures. It started out as all smiley faces, but quickly evolved into scary pictographs. You could plainly see that the message was out to get you. Little birds of prey and lions and sharp sticks and leering eyeballs. Look out! Then they changed the little pictures into abstract shapes representing sounds and it was supposed to be neutral, and it almost worked until they digitized it, and now it comes across as hostility again, veiled or unveiled. I just read that now periods at the end of text messages are interpreted as hostility. So put in a smiley face! How soon before the eyes are interpreted to be two periods, of hostility!

I now write emails ahead of time and let them sit before I send them. When I take a second look I see the hostile sentence and take it out. When I return again and see that one of the remaining sentences is also hostile, I take that out. And so on until the email is empty. Sometimes silence is golden. Except, no, it isn’t, it just creates a new problem. Why haven’t you REPLIED to me??

Tom Toles is the editorial cartoonist for The Post and writes the Tom Toles blog. See all of his cartoons here.

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