Tone Misinterpreted In Half Of All Emails

from the we-still-really-need-sarcasm-tags dept

Misinterpretations of emails have been around forever; email flame wars erupt at the slightest provocation. A recent study reports that the tone in email is misinterpreted 50 percent of the time. Furthermore, 90 percent of people think they've correctly intepreted the tone of emails they receive, making for a dangerous gap in communication. The lack of tonal and non-verbal cues have made email and IM a haven for misinterpreted statements and flame wars. The study attributes much of the misunderstanding to egocentrism, since readers have a difficult time "detaching themselves from their own perspective." Supposed email etiquette expert Nancy Flynn needs to check her own egotism. Flynn's statement that "People write absolutely, incredibly stupid things in company e-mails" could easily be tinder for a nice little flame war. Oh wait, maybe she didn't mean it that way...


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  1.  
    identicon
    Mike, Feb 13th, 2006 @ 6:04pm

    No Subject Given

    Porno!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2.  
    identicon
    msherwood1@gmail.com, Feb 13th, 2006 @ 6:04pm

    This is so incredibly true..

    this is so incredibly true..i see it every day..

     

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  3.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Feb 13th, 2006 @ 6:31pm

    No Subject Given

    Its impossible to be sarcastic in an e-mail because most people take it the wrong way; I guess nothing will ever take the place of face-to-face conversation;

     

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  4.  
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    jammer, Feb 13th, 2006 @ 6:41pm

    Smily face lol

    If people could just learn the proper language of the web this could all be avoided. :) There is no excuse for the miscommunication if proper guidlines are followed. :( This is a lesson that we can learn well from our kids. LOL

    Get the point :*

     

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  5.  
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    Paul, Feb 13th, 2006 @ 6:46pm

    No Subject Given

    Blame the schools for not teaching people how to properly express themselves using the written word. I do.

     

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  6.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Feb 13th, 2006 @ 6:48pm

    No Subject Given

    sheesh.

     

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  7.  
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    Pete, Feb 13th, 2006 @ 7:18pm

    Re: No Subject Given (pass the blame)

    Yea, great idea... Blame someone else. It's just a fact that written word is not as easily communicated as spoken word. So many more elements go into a conversation besides the exact words exchanged.

     

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  8.  
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    Stoned4Life, Feb 13th, 2006 @ 7:25pm

    The Obvious Stated Obviously

    Iím sure many chat room saavy users have figured this out on their own, at least through trial an error or personal experience, but if you have not yet come to terms with the fact that AIMíing is not quite the same as face-to-face confrontation, you need a serious reality check. But hey, like everything else I say, take it with a grain of salt.

     

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  9.  
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    Tom, Feb 13th, 2006 @ 7:37pm

    Re: The Obvious Stated Obviously

    I've found that the tone of an email should never be interpereted. If its not clearly stated (ex: GET THIS TO ME NOW!!!) then tone should not be interpereted, since it can't effectively be communicated. Paul, I agree, the schools are to blame for lack of proper communication of the written word; making them realize that there is a problem is an issue that won't be addressed for a long time.

     

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  10.  
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    Cliff, Feb 13th, 2006 @ 7:42pm

    Email and IM tonality mishaps

    "Supposed email etiquette expert Nancy Flynn needs to check her own egotism. Flynn's statement that "People write absolutely, incredibly stupid things in company e-mails" "
    She happens to be correct. I've worked for a few very large corporations as an IT contractor and I've seen some of the most amazingly inaccurate statements broadcast through company email. The many mistakes are: horrible grammer, mispelling (when client programs like Outlook, cc:mail, etc all have spell checkers), subject matter that is clearly inappropriate and just plain wrong. To make it worse than it already is, these inaccuracies could have been avoided by 5 minutes of research or just plain forethought.
    Somehow, people have decided that proper conversational etiquette does not apply in the digital world. Perhaps this is because the participants of such conversations have never met. Perhaps these people have never learned proper conversational manner. Who knows? What I do know, however, is that people need to take a few minutes and consider what they are trying to say before they attempt to say it.

     

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  11.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 13th, 2006 @ 8:48pm

    Re: Email and IM tonality mishaps

    The many mistakes are: horrible grammer, mispelling
    Yeah, I hate horrible grammar and misspelling too.

     

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  12.  
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    Jay, Feb 13th, 2006 @ 9:07pm

    Re: Email and IM tonality mishaps

    pfft - horrible grammer and mispelling - I hate making remarks about such things because you look like an idiot (as such in your case) when you screw up :P

     

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  13.  
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    Cliff is a Moron, Feb 13th, 2006 @ 11:13pm

    Re: Email and IM tonality mishaps

    Lol, Cliff. People living in glass houses ought not to throw rocks :-)

     

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  14.  
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    some guy, Feb 13th, 2006 @ 11:14pm

    2 centz

    i think that the problem is based on the age old practice of proofreading. In the digital world i find that most of the mistakes are due to the nature of speed and ease that the digital world provides. Emails are made easily and quickly, so who would want to take the time to go back and re-read what they just wrote. The truth is that most of the miscommunication is only mistakes* and if the writter bothered to proofread before sending out the email they would save confusion. Then proofreading actually saves time.
    * the exception of course is sarcasm which is almost always lost in text

     

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  15.  
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    David Wilde, Feb 13th, 2006 @ 11:54pm

    No Subject Given

    Hanlon's Razor.

     

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  16.  
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    Michael Zaretski, Feb 14th, 2006 @ 3:19am

    Cues like emoticons and XML

    All this is why cues like emoticons and XML are important in the textual medium. A ;-) at the end of the joke will go a long way for preventing a flame war. And XML tags are a very eXtensible way of conveying the meaning:

    <sarcasm>Yeah, that's really impressive.</sarcasm>

    <tongue location="cheek">It might help if you dipped your nose in the mustard.</tongue>

    <pat person="self" organ="back">I did it in just three minutes!</pat>

    <advocate client="Devil">They've succeeded in the market because their products are good.</advocate>

     

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  17.  
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    Dan, Feb 14th, 2006 @ 7:36am

    Miscommunication the norm

    This doesn't just apply to email. Most of the time people talk to each other, they are miscommunicating. Vitrually all the time they fail to detect that they are miscommunicating and continue to chatter away meaninglessly.

     

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  18.  
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    Jekke, Feb 14th, 2006 @ 9:09am

    50% of sociologists misinterpret their own researc

    Talk about junk science. Strangers passing prepared statements back and forth in which they have no real interest isn't even close to the way real human beings communicate via e-mail.

    It's no wonder they were right 50% of the time. It's a coin flip.

    All the gobbledegook about egocentrism reveals more about the biases of the researcher than about the nature of e-mail.

     

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  19.  
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    caroline, Sep 12th, 2006 @ 5:43am

    suspended from work for 5 daysfrom email misinterp

    An email was typed to 2 coworker and was also sent to unit supervisor which it offended. How can you offend someone in " threatening way" when that's her own interpritation of the email and not interprited that way to 2 other the mail was sent to? Is it a power trip? Seem that way to me. No verbal or written warnings were given an no previous negative comments towards this employee. But 5 day suspension was granted WHo makes that kind of harsh decision over I email incident?

     

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  20.  
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  22.  
    identicon
    possumgirl, Feb 25th, 2013 @ 1:40am

    email tone

    I just had a stern talking to at work over the supposed tone of my email. It is really hard to know the other persons intended tone via email. My boss started reading it out to me with this sarcastic tone that just wasn't intended. I think its crazy. im glad to read this story and know its not just me! Thanks.

     

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