Posted in Reading, Writing

The Emoticon Is Not Mightier Than The Sword

Intrigued  to hear an academic state on the radio this morning that 80% of communication in any conversation is non-verbal.  The actual words used apparently account for only 20% of the message.  Body language, intonation, volume, speed of delivery – all of these can make a substantial difference to how the message is perceived.  What a handicap this presents for any writer.  How can the written word compete?  Especially these days, when virtually all letters are typed or emailed.

In the golden day of the handwritten letter, when a postcard sent at breakfast time could be read by the recipient over  lunch, the style of writing could add much to the words.  Neatness, pressure on the page, slant – all of these would indicate to the reader the mood and tone of the writer.  Before emails supplanted my regular exchange of letters with friends, I could tell just by looking at the envelope of one friend’s letters whether he was happy or sad when he wrote it.

Not so with emailed updates.  It’s not that there aren’t expressive options available, but most people just don’t think to use them.  Most software packages provide a wide enough range of typefaces to allow one to assume all kinds of personalities and moods.  Comic Sans for the affectedly childlike, Impact for the attention-seeker; Curlz MT for the zany – the list is endless.
Of all the many typefaces, I rather favour Courier – a good old-fashioned typewriter font, retro and romantic (just like me).
At the touch of a button, you can also choose your point size – 18 for the extrovert, 8 for the profoundly depressed.  Weight, too, speaks volumes – extra bold is for Angry of Tunbridge Wells.
And then of course there is the ever-growing selection of the dreaded emoticons, which distil human feeling down to mindless  caricatures.  You won’t find any more on this website. (Oh, and I almost forgot – there’s underlining.)  Where will it all end? (Ed: Here.)


Author of warm, witty and gently funny fiction and non-fiction, including the popular Sophie Sayers Village Mystery series, beginning with "Best Murder in Show", inspired by her life in an English Cotswold community, short stories and essays about country life. As Commissioning Editor for the Alliance of Independent Authors' Advice Centre, she writes guidebooks authors. She speaks at many literature festivals and writing events, and is part of BBC Radio Gloucestershire's monthly Book Club broadcast. She is founder and director of the free Hawkesbury Upton Literature Festival which takes place in April, a member of the Romantic Novelists' Association, and an ambassador for children's reading charity Read for Good and the Type 1 diabetes charity JDRF.

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