My dear mother in my earliest youth used to warn me to watch my tone. The implication, especially if she was gritting her teeth, was that if I didn’t watch my tone, she was darn well going to watch it for me, usually with a smart slap across the cheek. There is a gift in every life experience. Perhaps it was edifying for me to learn how to convey my full shade of meaning without getting slapped. And I did learn. As a young adult, I remember feeling quite complimented when a would-be suitor told me that I could “say the meanest things in the nicest words.”
My dear mother has passed away, but her desire to check our tone lives on, I just found out, in an application that custody-sharing parents can use to check the tone of their written correspondence. Yes, folks, there really is an application called ToneCheck™ that “incorporates semantic processing tools… to help reduce the potential for conflict or misunderstanding”. They call it an “emotional spell-check” that can “identify and flag emotionally charged sentences” as you write. They even offer alternate neutral phrasing so you can edit as you go.
A dear family member once showed me an email correspondence in which she had sent her ex a copy of their child’s dentist bill with a polite request that he pay his share. His response had been “You are pathetic excuse for a human being.” As the alternative meaning of “pathetic” is “worthy of compassion,” I like to think the app may have transformed the loaded missive to “I am sorry.” What the app cannot do is make the ex pay the dentist, but at least reading less crap from the old hound dog would provide relief that many parents would be happy to pay for. And now the parenting plan can even indicate that parents MUST use such an app in their correspondence. I love this idea.
We all say things we regret. I remember my children telling me about an app that would make you do a few simple math problems before allowing you to send out any phone texts in the wee hours of the morning. Presumably the app was to act as a gatekeeper to stop you from regretting what you send to whom at the critical hours of the night. And many regrets are out there. I like the idea of an app that can tone down your email while still allowing you to convey your message.
As my mother well knew, and this app advertises, “sometimes messages are misunderstood because of word choice”. The point of both the slap and the app is to “prevent you from saying something that you might regret” by detecting and flagging (or slapping) “emotionally-charged sentences”. I am not a techie, as my close friends can attest, but I can safely say that I consider this new app a clear upgrade from the one used in my childhood. It sounds more user-friendly while allowing us to save face.