April 15th, 2008

If Only There Were an Inoculation…

If it’s called “foot in mouth” when you say something stupid, into what orifice should we say you have jammed your keyboard when you email something obnoxious?


I am well accustomed to humiliating myself by inserting foot in mouth. Given the volume of my conversation (by “volume” I mean “amount”—although I take it that audibility is not generally one of my conversational challenges), it is probably inevitable that I will say a fair amount of ridiculous stuff. And in fact, I had a rash of conversational embarrassments just recently, so I can assure you that this is not something I have outgrown (or am ever likely to).


But while it is not unusual for me to, say, touch on a hot-button topic, completely oblivious to the fact that I am pushing any buttons at all…  I am not very often rude (and only very, very rarely on purpose).


Lately, though, I have been on the receiving end of some rude emails. There has been a veritable spectrum of evil in my inbox: passive-aggressive (thanks for editing my story that way—I’m sure you did the best you could); emails about me that were accidentally sent to me (I don’t see why we have to jump just because she thinks she wants to run a story on us right now); and outright obnoxious (thanks for not giving me a byline—that’s going to help my business a lot [I should perhaps note that the person who sent me this email did have a byline, which was evidently somehow overlooked]).


Does no one re-read their emails before they send them? Is it—as I read in a recent article about cyberbullying—simply because the writers are not face-to-face with the recipients that people so easily write (and send) snotty emails?


I’ve been in situations where an email I received made me so angry that my hands were shaking almost too much to type coherently. I responded to every issue that upset me, being very clear—and not the least bit polite—about what the truth of the matter was.


And then I put that email into my Draft folder.


A while later, after the shaking subsided, I pulled out the email. Read it through. Deleted most of it, responding only to the core issue. Rephrased it so that, while it might have been chilly, it was in no way rude.


Then I stored it again.


One more read-through, and it was ready to go—and I could be confident that I wasn’t exacerbating an already tense situation.


Revision, people. It’s all about revision. That’s something writers already know. Perhaps it is our mission to take that lesson out to the rest of the world, and cut off Rude Email Disease before it becomes an epidemic.

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