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.)