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From Ms Susan P. Bachelder.

Sir, Simon Kuper’s column on social media makes some cogent points for the use of speech as a more lively and informed method of written communication (“Social media have improved writing”, Life & Arts, March 23).

I would point out, however – a great word, “however” – that a letter, as originally conceived by the ancients, was to transmit speech. Letters were read out loud. In fact, Cicero once wrote to a friend: “Please excuse me for taking so long to respond to your letter but I had a sore throat.” Think about that for a while. Latin and Greek were spoken – heard – not seen – they were the vernacular.

In fact, it wasn’t until Ambrose in Milan in the 4th century CE that we see reading in silence actually mentioned, a shocking innovation at the time. So hurrah if we are getting back to using the vernacular to express ourselves more directly in writing, as we used to do 2,000 years ago. But I think it can be argued that good texting is not necessarily good writing.

From what I see online, I for one would rather keep reading Cicero’s blogs.

Susan P. Bachelder, Egremont, MA, US

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