Hate is a strong word and a powerful emotion. So is Love. Since there’s no such thing as loving too much, I worry more about hate. It’s easy to openly declare war on personal peeves, like when people use emoticons at work, or listen in to loud conference calls on their speaker phone. Have you ever said “I hate people who use their speaker phone for conference calls!” when you really meant “I find it inconsiderate when people use their speaker phones for conference calls.” (Similarly, I have a friend who thinks everything is either “fabulous,” or “the coolest thing I’ve ever seen.” Nobody seems to mind when people over-exaggerate in support of something.)
When you openly express disdain for some thing, some one, or some practice, one of two things happens: 1) You galvanize the feelings of people who already agree with you (preaching to the choir), or 2) You come across as narrow-minded and preachy. Or both. And you polarize your audience. In short: there’s no real benefit to expressing outright hatred for something.
Case in point: one of my favorite web authors, Farhad Manjoo, posted an article on Slate.com today about the appropriate amount of spaces to use after a period. Cleverly titled Space Invaders, his article enlightened me on best practices defined by modern Typographers. Neat, right? Sure. Among other things, I found out that I shouldn’t be using two spaces after a period, which I’ve been doing since I learned to type. I didn’t even know it was “wrong!”
But you can tell the tone of the article right from the post-colonic: “Why you should never, ever use two spaces after a period.” Obviously he’s on a rant. The tone of his article is so condemnative [invented word], so overtly dismissive of those who were taught to use two spaces and never learned differently, that he must have written it in jest. I left wondering if he’d even have coffee with someone who double-spaces. I don’t know that he would. He hates people who don’t single-space. To me, that’s a pretty small nit to pick, unless you’re in the business of typography, professional communication, etc.
Read through his article’s comments. Readers either support him fully or think he’s an arrogant prig. Many, like me, who have read him for years, simply can’t believe he took a stand that strong on something that’s so trivial and, frankly, slightly off-topic for him.
My point here is that the article could have been written differently. “It’s surprising how many people still employ double-spaces even though we don’t use typewriters any more.” An explanation would follow, exceptions to the rule would be noted, and we’d have a nice little piece that didn’t stir the pot. Instead: vitriol. And that’s the lesson. I’m reminding myself that any time I have something less-than-average to say about a person, place, or thing, I don’t have to imply I hate, can’t stand, won’t tolerate, or refuse to accept it. There are other, more professional ways to express myself. Removing Hate from my vocabulary, professionally and personally, may just become an unofficial resolution for 2011.
Incidentally, I tried using single spaces in this article, but failed miserably. I’ll work on that in my free time.
Also, all of Manjoo’s other articles are fantastic, and I’ll continue to read him in on Slate (I go every day) and in Fast Company (lifetime subscriber), and anywhere I can find him. He’s not an arrogant jerk, which is why I believe his article was intentionally cheeky. But it makes a great example of my point, which is why I’m picking on him.