E-mail Makes You Smarter

Purely observation but I believe that e-mail has made people think I am smarter than I am. Somebody asks me a question and I have the time to formulate my response. Reread and rewrite it until it's grammatically and argumentatively correct. I can research possible options. It gives me the flexibility to answer on my own time.

In person, I'd end up stumbling over the right word or misphrase things in such a way that nobody would have a clue what I'm saying. I'd say stuff that's factually wrong. Or I might stand there for a few minutes saying, "I know what it is. Just give me a minute to remember."

So, if you meet me in person, rest assured that I really am smarter than I sound.

Published November 29, 2005 · Updated September 14, 2006
Categorized as Writing
Short URL: https://snook.ca/s/462


16 Comments · RSS feed
Wesley Walser said on November 29, 2005

Thanks for being willing to share your knowledge, under whatever forum. We appreciate the help.

Poncho said on November 29, 2005

I know exactly what you mean! I just can't... um... think of the word right now. Just kidding.

I'm exactly the same. I can appear to be quite knowledgable in certain things with a little time and a blank text document, but in most cases I couldn't pour water out of a boot with instructions on the bottom. lol


P.S. This (^ signature) is generated by a KB shortcut, so I don't have the chance to mis-spell it.

Rod said on November 29, 2005

What about text-messages? I think that makes you look dumber. Especially when you use predictive text and dont correct the wrong words.

Jonathan Snook said on November 29, 2005

Rod: I'd place text messages above in-person chatting but below e-mail. With instant messaging, you can get enough of a delay to change obvious errors and not stumble too much. But you also don't have enough time to research answers and what not.

nuffGigs said on November 29, 2005

Nice to hear you review your emails before sending them out. Lately I get emails that look more like text messages. Things like "r u going 2 da meeting @ 2pm" seem to flood my inbox. I can't say I'm not guilty of doing the same thing since I sometimes send emails using from my cell phone.

With smartphones and connected PDAs becoming the norm its nice to get a well written email sometimes.

Karl Swedberg said on November 29, 2005

I remember having this same experience when I worked for Microsoft back in the early 1990s. I couldn't understand why they kept promoting me, but figured it must have had something to do with the way I came across in my email messages. Unfortunately, there was also a down side to having people think I was smarter than I actually was: I often felt like a fraud and was waiting for somebody to expose my ineptitude. Sad, really. Thanks for this post; it sparked a nice little reverie.

Tom said on November 29, 2005


Nathan Smith said on November 29, 2005

Jonathan: I can attest to that. Hit me up on Instant Messenger, and I'm a veritable idiot. I think it's cool that you take time to answer questions that people have, including my own. :)

quinn said on November 29, 2005

hello there.
I just had to say someting. It's really nice to hear what you just posted. I think you have been doing awesome work around here but still have something like this that I can relate to. I am even a slow talker in Japanese, which is my native language. So, I have a question for you. Does BLOG makes you smarter than e-mails?

andr3 said on November 29, 2005

I notice that too... but dumb people will always be dumb. Not only do i keep getting replies with either typos or huge mistakes in them.

Just the other day i received a mail from iTunes (!!!) and it had an error in it. They were stating that Creed had broken up like 4 or 5 years ago... when it hasn't been two years since the breakup.

You can extend this concept to Google. How many of us use google to confirm something you're not sure of? I know i do, all the time. Something that is not possible in face-to-face conversations. Or any kind of instant conversation (even instant messaging over the web) which has a short time span for writing replies.

kartooner said on November 29, 2005

You know, I was just thinking about this the other day as I was replying to a Customer Support request, that in reality, as you described, I too would stumble in conversation to find the right words.

In contrast, when it comes to online correspondence (and when I'm writing) I have my handy thesaurus and dictionary, just a click away, to aide me in my quest to sound smarter.

Yet, I'm sure you've read emails where the prose, punctuation, grammar and spelling for that matter just isn't there. I'd much rather read something where etiquette is followed than something like: "thank you. see me in 5 minutes to discuss the project ok. jim".

That's just annoying, not to mention difficult to read.

Jens Meiert said on November 30, 2005

But the moment after you wrote each e-mail, you actually will be (even) smarter (unless your memory is quite holey, that is).

Patrick said on November 30, 2005

It's funny that you mention this. I am pursuing my MA in Communications and recently read an article that discussed the synchronous and asynchronous communication. Research has shown exactly what you have observed. Synchronous communication generates greater satisfaction with the participants, while asynchronous communication generates "better" communication.

Jonathan Snook said on November 30, 2005

quinn: Yeah, I think a blog can make you smarter. Especially when you take the time to document and research a post. It becomes a learning process for yourself. And then by sharing what you learn with others, it makes others smarter for reading your blog. :)

Craig said on November 30, 2005

I tend to find that the more I practise something. Whether that be blogging, IM or talking in person, the smarter I appear in that medium while the opposite is true of the others.

I remember seeing a documentary on people with aquired brain injuries. One fellow could cite an entire phone book from memory and yet he couldn't make himself breakfast. Over time he was taught to make breakfast and do other daily chores and in doing so, struggled to recall his phonebook. He still practised reading it, his recall rate had just slowed dramatically. Mental resources having been taken up for other tasks.

Issachar said on December 01, 2005

I also have arrived at the same conclusions, but had never really stopped to think about it. Writing is one of my hobbies, an I always find I can be so much more precise, emotive, appealing or sarcastic when I am writing. Live communications turn in to a flopped joke, or so it seems. That's what I like about e-mail, and alsdo what I hate about it. I t gives me the time to be cold and precise even though I might be in a rage (lol). Anyway, I just found your website a few days ago, after you posted an agreement to my comment about CSSVista. I am a designer, but only a begginer at web development, learning CSS, Webstandards and all that cool stuff. Right now my web page has an article I was developing for a friend taking up space, but I am developing my own little website and should have it up there soon, if time permits. Thanks for the info here, and for everyone that commented.

Sorry, comments are closed for this post. If you have any further questions or comments, feel free to send them to me directly.