…is you don’t know the emotion or feelings the writer was experiencing when they wrote the email. Which in turn means it’s entirely up to the reader to determine how they think the writer intended the email to come across.
I’ve experienced this myself first hand a number of occasions, where people have completely misunderstood an email I have sent them, simply because they read the email thinking I’d meant to emphasis entirely different bits of the email than I actually did, or that I wrote it with particular thoughts and emotions in my mind. The result in a couple of occasions was devastating – People got annoyed and friendships where irreparably damaged, and even now, years on, I feel the pain.
Last week I was reminded of this again when someone commented to me about an email they had received, quoting the content to me and emphasizing particular words in it. They were annoyed at how the writer had worded the email, however having been told what the email said, I pointed out that I wouldn’t have taken the email to mean the same as they had. I asked if there were any words in the email underlined or emboldened, and was informed that none were. I then questioned why the person who was telling me this, had emphasised specific words in the email, as in doing this they had completely changed the meaning of the email.
So the problem with emails is that we rely on our own interpretation of the emotion put into the typing. When we are talking to someone, we subconsciously use what we see, in the speaker’s expression and what we hear in their voice, along with the actual words they are saying, to determine how we think they feel and the emotion they want to impart in their words. Unfortunately, when we send an email, the recipient only has our words to determine what they think we’re trying to express.
I’m continuing to try to be more careful when I write emails, and would urge you to do the same – Be careful when you’re writing emails that you leave no room for the recipient to misinterpret your words.