I was talking to the mother of a teenage daughter the other day and she told me she had a 'text fight' with her 14 year old daughter. I asked her how the fight got started and this is what she told me.
Mum gets text from daughter at school: Hey Mum can I go to Sophie's?
Busy Mum, lovingly but very mistakenly replies, Ok.
Daughter replies: Are you angry?
Mum replies, with a little care: No, not at all.
Daughter replies: Well u sound angry.
Mum thinks: I am getting angry but replies, no, I am fine, it is okay if you go to Sophie's.
Daughter replies: well u dont have to be so snippy about it.
Mum thinks: I can't win and doesn't reply but worries for the next three hours until the daughter comes sulkily through the door.
I suggested to the mother: If your daughter texts, return with a phone call. Talk to her. Texts have no tone! She read into your tone what she was afraid she would hear.
And I am saying it again, read my lips: Fact one. Text has no tone, not even if you WRITE IN CAPITALS (which for the uninitiated means you are shouting).
Text has no tone. Fact 2. The English language relies on tone for its meaning. It relies on emphasis. I met a man who kept telling me he had just returned from a fricker. I said what, and he said, you know, a fricker, where the elephants are. Oh, I said, you mean Africa. Yeah, that's what I said, he said, a fricker. He put the emphAsis on the wrong syllAble.
There is a sentence that I use to explain the difference in the meaning of a single sentence depending on the emphasis. The sentence is: I never told you she stole all my money. This sentence has nine words and nine different meanings depending on the emphasis. If you don't believe me, keep reading.
I never told you (somebody else must have)
I never told you (I deny emphatically ever having told you)
I never told you (you must have found out some other way)
I never told you (I might have told somebody, but not you)
I never told you she stole all my money (It wasn't her)
I never told you she stole all my money (I gave it to her or she borrowed it)
I never told you she stole all my money (just some of it)
I never told you she stole all my money (it was somebody else's)
I never told you she stole all my money (she just took the jewellery)
See what I mean? Tone is everything, yet so many people communicate by text and then fight about what they texted about...So, I am saying, don't do it you silly bugger (and I mean that in the nicest, kindest most affectionate way, so please read that tone into it!