Saturday, January 8, 2011

No don't stop - or, the problem with lack of intonation

A few recent electronic misunderstandings have led me to muse the lack of intonation inherent in emails and blogging. I have never been one to use emoticons (smiley face) but these at least go some way to expressing the intent of the author. ie This is a joke, or, I am using irony here. Coupled with a lack of intonation is the careless use of grammatical indicators in emails, texts and blogging that could also help point the reader in the right direction if used.

Which reminds me of an English class where we were given the words 'no don't stop' and asked to interpret their message. As we found, the message or (urgency of the message) could change, depending on the use of grammatical indicators.

No! Don't stop.
No! Don't! Stop!
No, don't stop.
No don't. Stop.
No? Don't stop.

4 comments:

sian.obrien said...

And my own personal favorite- what is this thing called love. Endless fun! I know what you mean, though - which is why I prefer a phone call to a text message, and a face to face to a phone call. There are subtleties not only in the intonation, but facial expressions and body language that we don't even consciously register. And THAT is why my teenage daughter forever misinterprets her friends on FB- "OMG" can have so many meanings!!

Robyn Bavati said...

This post reminds me of the book Eats, Shoots and Leaves; The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation. A witty and entertaining piece of non-fiction written by the comic writer Lynne Truss.

Robyn Bavati said...

Forgot to explain. You could see it as:
Eats, shoots and leaves.
Eats shoots and leaves.
Eats shoots, and leaves.

karen tayleur said...

Ah yes, what is this thing called, Love? I suspect they had the same problem with smoke signals in the olden days.

Hi Robyn, that book sits in the reference section of my bookcase - I love it.