Rumble box: E-mail vs letters


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In this week's Rumble Box, Kevin Kung and Joyee Chan are engaged in an argument about e-mail vs letters.


We've been in the cyber age for decades. E-mail is not something new. It is essential in our daily life, especially at school and the workplace.

We all know e-mail is more environmental friendly, don't we? You can print only the part of your mail that you need, rather than letting piles of waste paper stack up.

In terms of cost, you can save on stamps if you send e-mail instead. And if you notify your mobile phone service providers and credit card companies to send bills through e-mail, rather than sending paper letters every month, you can avoid the service charge and use the savings to treat yourself to something nice.

The cost of buying or renting an apartment in Hong Kong is surging, Joyee. Needing a bigger flat so there's space for all our letters is wasteful. Take a look at the piles of letters sitting around your home, or the homes of others, and you'll regret the thousands - or even tens of thousands - of dollars being spent to store them.

I am not saying that old-fashioned letters are worthless. They still have their function, but I think they can only serve a supporting role to e-mail.

Nearly everyone these days has a smartphone. With the search function, we easily retrieve old e-mails we need. We don't usually carry stacks of old letters when we go out, right?

Without e-mail, Joyee, your press releases will arrive late. Even if a public relations company's letters get to your desk before their event starts, you would be left with less time to plan your schedule.

It would be even worse if I started submitting my reports from overseas sports tournaments by mailing them from the local post office. I don't mind sending you a postcard next time, Joyee. But it's pretty clear that e-mail is irreplaceable and possibly one of the best inventions of the last century.

Kevin Kung


E-mail has effectively put the ordinary letter on the endangered-species list. Compared with the thousands of e-mails and spam that fill my computer's inbox every month, I receive no more than a handful of paper letters in my actual mailbox.

It's true that it's greener, quicker and more convenient to send bills, reports and press releases via the internet. But when it comes to saying "happy birthday", affirming love, asking forgiveness or inviting friends to an important event, such as a wedding, a handwritten message does much more to prove the writer's sincerity.

It takes time to hunt down the best-designed paper for the occasion - Disney character patterns for your best friend or a laced pop-up card for your beloved. You have to pick what to write with, too. I have a box full of glitter pens, pastels and markers to help me make my letters more colourful and creative.

When you write a letter by hand, you have to organise your thoughts more carefully. You have to write slowly, so you don't cross out sentences or leave sloppy paragraphs. With e-mail, everything is a click away - you type on the keyboard and hit the send button. Everything is said with emoticons, abbreviations and slang, not proper grammar.

To read "I love you" on a computer screen really kills the romance. An electronic "Happy New Year" can be copied, pasted and sent to an entire address book in seconds.

Letters are the best way to express thoughts and feelings. They're something that the recipient can touch, feel and keep. Call me old-fashioned or sentimental, but I still keep boxes of old letters on my bookshelf and in my wardrobe.

Every so often, I take them out and re-read them.

Sadly, I can't say the same for all those e-mails that I get.

Joyee Chan

We hope you enjoyed the rumble. If you have an idea for a fun topic, e-mail us at [email protected] with "Rumble Box" in the subject line and we could be wrangling your topic idea next week

<a href="">Who had the better argument?</a>