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Meredith Leigh Knight Columnist

Published Friday, June 08, 2012

Watch your tone

I got the sweetest e-mail tonight.

How are you doing? I miss seeing you. I hope your family is well, it read. No, it wasn’t from a long-lost friend. It was from a woman I can’t stand. A woman who is normally pushy, loud, rude (and, I hate to say this, but a Yankee to boot).

Some people say you can’t pick up tone in e-mail. I disagree. You just don’t know if it is the person’s true tone. I used to work for the nicest lady. I’d talk to her on the phone, and she would sound something like this: “If you have a chance, my dear, to work on these reports, that would be wonderful. Just do what you can, sweetheart, OK?”

OK, I’d say, and I’d tinker along until I would get an e-mail, usually an hour and half later, that said: “Where in the **#@# are the reports that I need? I’m going on vacation and need them — stat!”

Yikes, who’s that, and when did she eat my boss?

In the French language, there are degrees of formality. For instance, vous is polite, and tu is familiar. I think we should have the same thing for e-mail. If we could categorize people as tu and vous, it would take out all the guesswork. Just because someone has your e-mail, it doesn’t make her your best friend. And even if she is, it doesn’t mean she should give up all the niceties like thank you and please or even hello and goodbye.

Another problem is the drunken e-mail. Honestly, I think we need to pass a breathalyzer before the computer allows us to send one. Think people can’t smell alcohol on your breath through e-mail? Think again. Depending on the amount of wine, these e-mails are either very mushy or very angry, full of misspellings and sometimes sent to the entire e-mail distribution list.

Speaking of angry e-mails, they are never a good idea. Go for a jog, scream, unplug your computer -- please don’t send an e-mail when you’re angry. You will always be sorry. I have a friend who quit her job recently via e-mail after a minor incident at work. Now she’s sending out drunken e-mails looking for employment.

I have a love/hate relationship with e-mail. I know e-mail is a great way to stay connected, but there are days when I miss face-to-face conversation. Sometimes nothing is better than meeting for a cup of coffee.

Plus it keeps us sober.

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