Think first, write later

Back in the dark ages – 60-odd years ago you understand when I was nobbut a lad – we used to get things called letters. People spent ages laboriously writing these missives in longhand with a pen and ink, or if you were really trendy, a new-fangled ballpoint. And because it was a slow process we had time to think about what we were writing, about exactly what we wanted to say and how to say it.

But we no longer have the patience for this. We want news as it happens, whether it’s the latest economic indicators, a new atrocity anywhere in the world or just what Aunty Mabel is doing at that precise moment in time complete with photo. And modern technology has made this possible with hyper-fast worldwide communications and an ever more sophisticated set of instruments (aka smart phones, tablet computers etc.) to make use of them.

When I started as a news agency journalist back in the mid-60s we used to reckon that we had 15 minutes to correct a mistake before an item of news hit the client’s desk. When I retired in 1997, an 80-character news flash would appear on a client’s screen on the other side of the world a matter of seconds later. And seconds later that client could have made a deal involving huge sums of money betting on how the news would affect whatever market he was involved with. If we both got it right, he would make money. If I got it wrong, he would certainly lose money and be a very unhappy bunny. And I would be asked to explain how I managed to get it wrong! There was no longer any room for error.

So we no longer sit down at a writing desk and take the time to write a letter by hand. Instead we whip out the smart phone, tap out a quick SMS, Tweet, Facebook status or comment on SFN and press send. It’s short, to the point and fast. But how many times have you had second thoughts? Maybe I shouldn't have said that or not in that way. Will the people who read it be annoyed, upset, angry even? But it’s too late. It’s gone and there’s not a lot you can do about it.

Which is why I reckon we should all print this and stick on the computer screen (photo

Love the Socrates story!! Made me smile! :-))

In ancient Greece (469-399 BC), Socrates was widely lauded for his wisdom. One day the great philosopher came upon an acquaintance who ran up to him excitedly and said, "Socrates, do you know what I've just heard about one of your students?"

"Wait a moment." Socrates replied, "Before you tell me I'd like you to pass a little test: it's called the Triple Filter Test."

"Triple filter?"

"That's right." Socrates continued. "Before you talk to me about my student, lets take a moment to filter what you're going to say. The first filter is Truth: have you made absolutely sure that what you are about to tell me is true?"

"No," the man said, "actually I just heard about it and....."

"All right." said Socrates. "So you don't really know if it's true or not. Now let's try the second filter which is Goodness: is what you are about to tell me about my student something good?"

"No, on the contrary...."

"So," Socrates continued, "you want to tell me something bad about him, even though you're not certain it's true?"

The man shrugged a little embarrassed. Socrates continued.

"You may still pass the test though, because there is a third filter: the filter of Usefulness: is what you want to tell me about my student going to be useful to me?"

"No not really".

"Well" concluded Socrates, "if what you want to tell me is neither True nor Good nor Useful, why tell it to me at all?"

The man was defeated and ashamed. This is the reason Socrates was a great philosopher and held in such high esteem.

It also explains why he never found out that Plato was banging his wife!

I still write letters too - and still receive them. Definitely NO comparison between the enjoyment I get from an email and the enjoyment I get from a letter!!

I also think it is easy via email or on-line to "say" things that you wouldn't dream of saying face-to-face. It removes the "personal" aspect of the conversation, and combined with the immediacy of it, makes it easy to respond before the brain has been fully engaged!!! :-)

Shoulld be CAN NOT see why hurting others coulld bring mme pleasure.

Can not find the correction button.

I do think before I write.

And truth is the most important part of the content of a letter/

message to me above everything else.

I would only Ever mention something as a comment or

statement unless I know it to be common knowledge.

I take the time to pre think of ways to express my emotion

without trying to hurt others.....I can no see why upseting others

could bring me pleasure.

Looking at ideas which others express in words can always be

helpful...I hope that on occassion I am.

Very little of what we say is necessary as such....It is our choice to communicate

and we do it because we seek enjoyement and like to share words and thoughts with others.

Survive France.

Kind....they is no real motivation to be unkind as what goes around tends to come around.

Emails have their uses, but they can cause problems. Many years ago I had to put together a quilt show in the Museum in St Albans. The curator emailed answers to my queries and sounded a real 'jobsworth'. I took an instant dislike to him. After a while we needed to meet and to my surprise he was a young, dishy man who was charming and just doing his job. The problem was that he didn't know how to write charming emails. Sometimes I am so cross I have to leave an email in draft and come back to it, only to delete the whole thing and start again. I wish others did the same.

Yup, 20yrs in France and I still use a QWERTY keyboard at home!

Terry - a computerised slate. No, round here the slates still need chalk to make them work, the primary school last year boasted that all 4 classrooms in primaire now have a computer- wow, technology!

Love the THINK - and posted it on my FB at one stage. It seems to me quite a sensible way of looking at things - before you write or say something THINK!! :-)

I would definitely agree with Tracy T - one of the most practical things I ever studied was Touch typing - and it still comes in handy even now!! I bought my latest keyboard in UK - simply to ensure that I don't go mad trying to type English and ending up with lunacy because I have a French keyboard. My family go NUTS when they try to use my computer as the "Paint" has worn off almost all the keys - so they don't know what they are writing. Luckily it doesn't bother me as I don't look at the keys anyway!! SO useful. :-)

My next keyboard will also be English - I can't start learning new keyboards now. My fingers just know where to go on this one!!

I do have a grandson in school, Tracy, and he indeed has a slate even though he has reached the lofty heights of première But it's computerised!

Emm, you guys are all obviously too old to have kids in school in France, even though I know you have young children Brian. In deepest darkest Burgundy the kids still have slates at school, my daughter has graduated in CE2 to a white board slate - plain one side, squares the other but in CP the little one still has a real slate and a box of chalk to practice his handwriting!

And although I may only be 46, when I was at school, we were taught Italic handwriting, using the old style wooden pens with nibs that you dipped in the ink pot! The most practical subject I ever studied was to learn how to touch type on an old Olympic typewriter, considered pointless at the time but a boon now - well apart from the fact that I have to use french keyboards that have letters in different places!!!!

I think we all had those writing lessons back then and I failed miserably. My letters home were passed round the family with words underlined by my mother in the hope that someone else would be able to decipher what I had written. Which was why I switched first to a typewriter and then a computer. Typing personal letters was rather frowned upon back then as being too impersonal and even insulting because one hadn't thought enough of the person one had written to to make the effort to write it by hand. But at least that way the people I wrote to could read what I'd written!

Bruce -- the ink monitor. Oh that takes me back. We fought for the honour; and those awful scratchy cheap nibs that in my hands always produced far more pools of ink than recognisable letters. My French wife recalls making the ink from powder and water. It was a highly recognisable purple colour which whisks her instantly back to her school days every time she sees it.

Ron: slate indeed, in my case: lined on one side, squared (for maths) on the other, in nice red lines on black... Aaahhh. (That was late forties, mind you, in deepest Flanders...)

Haha, Bruce. My teacher when I was 11, Mr Moriarty, did writing lessons of the kind you describe, as had teachers in at least two preceeding years. However, he referred to my hand writing as 'spiders fighting'. I am not a gauche, but nothing has changed. I no longer flick ink...

I remember being proud, at school, of being the ink monitor…my job was to fill all the ink wells and dish out new nibs for the wooden shafted pens. There were also hand writing lessons! Kids only know text-speak now. I remember my mother’s writing being a work of art! A lot of youngish French people still write elaborately though. Being a Gauche, my handwriting is still crap, though!

And given the cost of good paper (A4 from the printer just will not do) I am far more careful about editing in my brain before putting pen to paper. Have just read my previous comment and shuddered - the use of '-' and typos!!!!!!!!!!!!!

One of the joys of my life is writing letters (yes I do use a fountain pen) to the OHs mother and my grandchildren. The pleasure I know they get when an envelope arrives is far greater than a quick email or skype call - as useful as these thing are.. I spend hours illustrating the childrens letters and thinking about something new to tell Madam. And like Ron I always include a photo or two. Could not survive without the internet - but do treasure snail mail.

... try scraping TYPEX off yer computer screen!

@ Brain et al

Soz team I have taken to the habit of dropping in pertinent pics... I know I should get out more! Dunno bout yooze but when I was doing the three Rs... we used a slate. Straight up!

Being a mere lad compared to our Terry, in the 1960s we made the transition from fountain pens, that were filled by lifting a lever that squashed the rubber ink reservoir, thus creating a vacuum that sucked the ink in to using nice little cartridges that we simply slotted in our pens. Both prompted momentary THINKING. One had to THINK what kind of mess one would make, would it be hands, desk or exercise book.

With the lever kind, at school it was not unusual to squirt the neck of the person in front. It was always an accident, but was that (always/ever) TRUE. When the cartidges appeared they were extremely HELPFUL for the person in front for a while because their necks were no longer squirted with blue Stephens' ink. It seemed, however, to be INSPIRING to a few enterprising school children who found that with a deft flick of the pen a large fleck of the liquid would be emitted onto the neck before them. Perhaps that is why it was NECESSARY to move on to the innovation Terry names, the ballpoint pen.

Perhaps it is not really KIND of me to hark back to those days. However, there is a profounder point. We thought we had time to think, but it is what we thought and how we acted on those thoughts that I am now thinking about. Not all thoughts are as pure as driven snow, had we seriously considered the scrubbing of necks, washing of white shirts and dark blazers and our own shamed, hung heads as we waited outside the headmaster's office listening to the crack of a cane on juvenile hind quarters then we would have thought again. So, as Terry says, in these days when thinking often needs to be instant, sometimes try to forget instant and remember considered thought. There is no headmaster's study waiting but there could be worse!