I’m slowly working my way through the letters of Pliny the Younger (in a very nice Oxford Classics edition translated by P.G. Walsh). As one so often finds when reading the ancients, here is a quote that is just as relevant today, from Book V Letter 7, to his friend Calvinius Rufus, where he was reporting on a problem about someone’s will (something that crops up fairly often in his letters). He is explaining why he didn’t send a letter to the town council and is asking Calvinius to do the talking in person:
Secondly, I was afraid that in a letter I might not appear to have maintained the judiciousness which it is easy for you to observe in conversation. For whereas one’s voice itself controls language, facial expressions, and gestures, a letter bereft of all such graces is exposed to malicious interpretation.
Surely we’ve all felt the same way when sending an email on a delicate subject, worrying that all the nuance and subtlety was lost.