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The Great Rudifier

“E-mail tends to rudify all communication,” says the character Rat in Sunday’s Pearls Before Swine strip. “Makes nice people sound rude. Makes rude people sound ruder.”

Sure does. And sometimes, I might add, it not only makes us sound ruder, but become ruder. The absence of face-to-face/voice-voice-contact makes it easier to get in the habit of blowing people off or stepping on their feelings.

The operative word in all this is “tends.” You can compensate. I try not to simply fire off quick, terse notes to people without adding some semblance of, well, niceness. No big deal: A word here and there, a thank-you, a punctuation mark for enthusiasm, an emoticon (though yeah, those can be overdone and get too cutesy). Just something that’s the equivalent of a smile, a supportive remark, a shared sentiment, a laugh, a hint of appreciation. The way it should go when you’re in a real conversation.

This helps. It doesn’t solve every problem. Which is why I also try to have real conversations. Or at least write some e-mails of substance. The way it should go when you’re writing a real letter.

Have you thought about these communications issues? What do/should you do about it?

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About the Author

Matt Kaufman

Matt Kaufman has been a columnist for Boundless since the site’s founding in 1998, and did a stint as editor in 2002-2003. He’s also a former staffer and current contributing editor for Focus on the Family Citizen magazine. Matt is a freelance writer/editor who spent some years in Colorado, but gave up the mountains for the cornfields: He now lives in his hometown of Urbana, home of the University of Illinois. His house is a five minute drive from the one where he grew up, and he enjoys daily walks around the park where he used to play baseball.

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