How would you read this sentence: “I think you need that crown.”

We all love email. And we love social media! We have been recommending regular communication with your patients for quite some time now, right? One thing we never discussed is how careful you need to be with your words in an email or anywhere else online.

Question: Do you know how to read music? If you do, you know that when you’re reading music, you’re actually reading at least two things simultaneously. Written music tells you what note to play and when to play it.

Written language, on the other hand, only tells you one thing – what letter to pronounce. Of course, punctuation helps indicate pacing – pause at a comma, stop at a period (no one is sure what to do at a semicolon), but it’s still up to the reader to interpret how the author wanted the piece paced.

Look at the sentence below:

 “I think you need that crown.”

What does it mean to your patient?

Be careful, because it may mean different things to different people.

For example, read the following sentences aloud and place the emphasis on the bold-faced underlined word. You’ll see how the pacing and the meaning can change based on where you choose to place the emphasis.

I think you need that crown.

think you need that crown.

I think you need that crown.

I think you need that crown.

I think you need that crown.

I think you need that crown.

You see, written language does not retain the intonation or have the inflection that spoken language has.  That’s why sarcasm and irony seldom works well in print or static online advertising. (Be careful with your Facebook posts – we have likely pissed many people off without meaning to do so!)

It’s one thing for you to add your own inflection to a treatment plan presentation when you have the patient right in front of you. But if you are communicating in writing or electronically, please be super careful.


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