I confess to seeing the problem. I have seldom sent a personal email or text message which I have not afterwards, in some degree, regretted. The old-fashioned pen slowed the transition from natural spoken word (and intended meaning) to unnatural script. It gave time for consideration, as did the manual typewriter. Writing involved effort. A word was pondered before being put to paper, packaged and sent through the post. I remember the ancient sandbox calligraphers in Chen Kaige’s film, The Emperor and the Assassin, and became more careful when I handwrote anything. There was poetry as well as prose in those glorious characters. We should treat letters and words with respect.
In comparison the computer keyboard, especially for touch-typists, is an invisible piano on which we play instantly and extempore. First musings race into fully-formed words and sentences with no pause for revision, let alone perfection. As soon as they are on screen they acquire validity. Over them hovers the dreaded send button, itching to be pressed and behind which lurk a hundred links, addresses and possible misdirections. Send is always pressed too soon.
Interesting, that letters and email both carry the same alphabet set, yet email is so dead.
The subject, incidentally, is from the busy comments section of the post, where Simon is scolded for being old-fashioned by a few dozen angry pimply teenagers, cleverly wielding their emoticons (as in, ha-ha!, I put an emoticon in my response, and that teaches you a lesson!). A few brave souls side with Simon:
…the medium of emails naturally encourages initial slipshod thinking.
Of course, most people will re-read emails, perhaps several times before sending them. It doesn’t stop me, as apparently for Simon, often thinking (one minute, an hour, a day or more later?) that I should have waited and expressed things differently, tweaked it a little more. With emails my words do tend to flood onto the screen, only to be edited and re-hashed and pasted around, at the moment or later. This is because the medium makes it possible: you can, and you know you can, instantaneously edit and change and modify easily, with little pain.
If you’re writing a letter – the classic pen-to-Basildon Bond process which some contributors appear, oddly, to harbour such intense feelings of loathing toward – you MUST think more carefully, be more disciplined in your thoughts and how to express them: no one is going to re-write a (normal) letter ten times before sending it off. You MUST get that sentence clear in your head BEFORE setting it down. You cannot, reasonably, put pen to paper if you do not have a clear idea of what you want to say, and HOW you want to say it.