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I have trouble with exclamation points in general – they’re very useful, but they lose their effectiveness if you break them out too often. This rule is doubly true for the Microsoft Outlook red exclamation point – the little symbol you can put next to the subject of your email that stands for urgency or high importance. My new boss has trouble with this concept to the point where I am not sure if she knows where the period is located on the keyboard or realizes that not all of her emails are highly important.
If you use the high importance red exclamation mark, say, twice a month, I’m going to understand the special pressing and critical nature of your request and treat the email accordingly. If you use it every single time you send me anything it’s going to start meaning less and less to me. In fact, I just might go to lunch before even opening your email in some sort of attempt to teach you a lesson.
What you’re telling me, with your dozens of red exclamation point emails, is that you think that everything you need is way more important than anything else I need to do for other people. It’s like cutting in line for no reason. I hate it so, so much.
In order to curb red exclamation point use, I have written a short two-example guide to help everyone understand when its usage is appropriate.
Subject: Book Order (!)
Could you order the below books for me??
Subject: Book Order (!)
Could you order the below books for me?? :)
Also, I am badly wounded and can’t stop the blood flow!!! I am typing this to you with the remainder of my strength. If you could call an ambulance or fashion a makeshift tourniquet for me out of office supplies, that would be great!!! Please hurry!!!
We live in dark times. And nothing makes me more convinced of this than the escalating use and growing acceptance of smiley faces in correspondence.
My new boss, who I’ve decided to dislike even though I’ve never met or spoken to her, and who is probably a really nice person who I will never give a chance, can’t seem to send an email without several emoticons beaming out from between her sentences and gluttonous number of exclamation points. U R 2 NICE!!! she wrote in her first email to me, making me wonder how I could “B 2 NICE” when I was in fact 2 shocked 4 words.
Sure, I will pardon the stray or well-used emoticon. I will pardon emoticons that are produced by the very young or very old. I will even pardon emoticons in forum responses and short virtual notes. But emoticons are a slippery slope of weird facial expressions, and, like most indulgences in life, they should be used sparingly and thoughtfully.
One day you might find yourself adding a single smiley face to the end of an email in order to cement your tone. But the next day you might, like my new boss, be wholly unable to go three lines in an email without breaking out the super smiley or the winky-smiley, all garnished with splashes of exclamation points and ellipses. It will be mere days before you find yourself replacing words with numbers – like some1 and 2day – and mere days after that before you are a homeless heroin fiend, the kind of person who coughs without covering their mouth or doesn’t put the cap back on the toothpaste.
Is it really that hard to express yourself clearly with actual words? Must we rely on weird yellow hieroglyphs, which are totally so 5,000 years ago? There are lots of words in this language and — surprised emoticon! — many of them express emotion. In fact, words can even be strung together in certain sequences that imply very specific tones and shades of meaning. For example, do I need to put a here for your to understand how I feel on the subject? Or do you get it?
To prove my point further, let’s take a look at how a classic author has survived without using emoticons. Would timeless words from the past be even more powerful and moving with emoticons?
Let’s try the opening of A Tale of Two Cities:
“It was the best of times it was the worst of times it was the age of wisdom it was the age of foolishness it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity it was the season of Light it was the season of Darkness it was the spring of hope it was the winter of despair we had everything before us we had nothing before us we were all going direct to Heaven we were all going direct the other way “
(Hm. I have to admit even I’m a little surprised that there’s an emoticon for “incredulous.”)
Yes, you could argue that emoticons clarify tone, which is sometimes hard to convey over short business emails. But I still think that the vast majority of the time it’s a crutch that is for the most part repetitive. More than that, though, I think that they are often not used sincerely. Who knows, though, maybe my defense against my new boss should be to honestly use emoticons in my emails. They would look something like this:
Attached is the spreadsheet you requested.
No, U R 2 NICE!!!
I must have been living under a rock this last week (or, more accurately, living with my face in a great book) because today was the first time I heard of the Kindle, the new “ebook” released by Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos. It’s the size of a paperback, it can download books off the net, among other reading-related functions, and it cost $399.
News of the thing is suddenly everywhere. Today, while talking on the phone with my mom and checking my email at the same time, she asked me what I thought about it at the same time that my dad emailed me wondering my reaction to it. Upon arriving home this evening to curl up with my (hardcopy of) Newsweek, Kindle was on its cover. I took the hint and read the article.
What do I think of Kindle? Well, first off, I find it kind of weird that it’s named after something that starts a fire (a non-ebook burning fire?). Secondly, I’m not sure what to think.
My first impulse is to push it away. I love books. I also love bookcases and bookmarks and bookstores and book lights and bookends. Aren’t they good enough as they are – that is, totally wonderful? Why would I want a piece of cold, buzzing technology in my hands instead of a soft, fluttering book, each with its own scent and texture and font?
My second thought was that this rejection of new things was exactly how I felt about other things that are now not so new: cell phones (if I want to call someone, I can do it at home!), laptops (it doesn’t feel like I’m using a computer!), DVD players (it’s a fad like laserdiscs!). Maybe I wasn’t giving Kindle a chance.
The most interesting part of the Newsweek article (which I recommend you read, in whatever form suits you) was a first-person account by Steven Levy of using the device to read a few books – a real world test run. There were some surprising pros that had me thinking a little differently: 1) Since Kindle connects to something called the wireless Whispernet, you can download books from wherever you want, whenever you want – no more getting stuck without a book 2) you can subscribe to newspapers and magazines for a fraction of the cost 3) you can search your books for keywords or passages and 4) unlike I would have guessed, the reading experience is pretty similar to reading a regular old book.
On the downside, it seems to have a few too many buttons and, like all devices of this kind and unlike regular old books, runs on a battery that has to be recharged every now and again. I guess the thing that bothers me a bit is that I don’t want people to try and make reading “easier” or “more fun” or “more like surfing the web”. I don’t want reading to become a victim of a gimmick or of trends (screens are everywhere – we should have screens instead of books!)
Really, though, I don’t want to be the old lady that gets left behind in the eDust. You know, the lady who refuses to use the self check out at the grocery store even though the line’s a lot shorter? Or the lady who I cannot, for the life of me, explain the concept of Netflix to? The Kindle could save students tons of money on textbooks for example. The Kindle could save trees. The Kindle could change more than how books are read, but how they are written.
What I’m getting at is that I can’t fathom my life without books – lying all over my apartment, weighing down my bag, dominating my Christmas list. But I also couldn’t fathom what the hell the internet was even ten years ago and now it’s an almost vital part of my life. One thing that I really love about my mother is that through her life she’s always embraced new gadgets – she tells us about her first ten-pound calculator, or how they saved to buy one of the first VCRs – the kind that loaded from the top. It’s an important part of life to be curious, learn new concepts, and accept change and innovation.
Let’s see how things go. It’s way too expensive right now, but I’m not going to shut the idea of the Kindle out. On one hand, I’m not convinced that Bezos has reinvented the printing press. On the other hand, I don’t want to be like that old lady in second century Rome who didn’t think anything could truly replace her precious scrolls.
Guy Talking On His Cell Phone at the Gym, it is not necessary to answer your cell phone just to tell someone that you can’t talk to them right now and that you’ll call them back later. There is a service – sometimes referred to as an answering service or “voice mail”- which will explain this situation to anyone who calls you and allow them to leave any pertinent information they have in a “recorded message.”
If you are answering your cell phone just to tell someone that you can’t talk to them right now because you are at the gym only because you really want people to know you’re at the gym, I feel 5 % amused and 5% sorry for you. What makes up the other 90% of my emotions? Anger that you are 20 inches from me and talking on your cell phone at the gym.
Guy Talking On His Cell Phone at the Gym, I understand from the business-like nature and frequency of your calls that you are probably a very important businessman, or at least would love to come off that way while on the elliptical machine at the gym.
May I offer you some advice on how you conduct your business? Perhaps you could use less horrifying and banal strings of business clichés, such as “I’ll have to pick his brain about that,” or “I’d just like to move forward with this project,” or “between you and me, money talks, my friend.” Perhaps you could also not remind whoever is on the line how serious and aggressive and powerful you are – it’s better to establish such traits subtly, through action and results.
And perhaps – and this is merely a suggestion – you could make your business calls before or after your paltry 25-minute elliptical workout, in which you don’t even lift weights afterward like I do. This way, your business partner or client would not have to hear you huffing and wheezing and panting in between words like a drowning pig coming up for air.
Guy Talking On His Cell Phone at the Gym, talking on your cell phone at the gym will not make your hair grow back, no matter how long and loud you talk.
Guy Talking On His Cell Phone at the Gym, your paltry 25-minute workout on the elliptical machine, in which you don’t even lift weights afterward like the rest of us, is made even less effective because one cannot properly both use a cardio machine and talk on the cell phone. I can often see your distance and calorie stats, GTOHCPATG, and even though you might think it is efficient to exercise and conduct vague, egotistical business at the same time, I’m guessing that you are doing neither activity well.
Guy Talking On His Cell Phone at the Gym, I thought it was really funny when you tried to send a text message while on the elliptical and was not sorry when you lost your balance and maybe hurt yourself a little. However, I’m not sure you learned your lesson about annoying multitasking and I secretly wish that you had fallen all the way off the machine. Then I could have looked down at you and said, “Text your friend about that!”