My mother always said “be careful what you put down on paper; you’re creating a lasting record.” I suppose it proves how much of a rebel I was that I became a writer.
I’ll admit there are a few letters I wish I’d never sent and a few emails I wish I could recall. That’s for reason of content. But in written correspondence there’s also the problem of absence of intonation, inflection, facial expression (especially the very useful wink), that can make something you intended as a joke seem like a serious insult.
And God forbid we forget to put that crucial piece of modern punctuation at the end of the sentence–that clarifying smiley face–then there’s no hope of averting disaster. I can imagine the friendships that have been ruined with that one omission, and I pray that major discussions between world leaders do not take place over email. Consider the difference between:
We’re launching our missiles at 3 PM sharp.
We’re launching our missiles at 3 PM sharp 🙂
(For added security, I might even add an LOL to that second one.)
On the other hand, as readers of written correspondence, perhaps we should take some extra time to analyze what someone might mean before jumping to conclusions. After all, why would someone who just wrote 14 lovely lines of correspondence want to stab you through the heart on line 15? It’s just not done. With the truly evil ones you usually find yourself impaled by line 2.
Then there’s the whole blogging thing, which basically has the same risks as other forms of written communication. Except you get to unintentionally insult many people at once. Quite efficient, actually.
I wonder if other writers are as paranoid as I am or if that childhood message just did a number on my brain. (Note to self: Send email to mom complaining about childhood issues. Be sure to end with a smiley face.)