Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Language!

I just sent a text message to my friend.  “What tome is jut?”  That went over well.  How about “Happy Bitch Day”?  That one worked well, too. 

When I read the text exchanges that people post on Facebook, I laugh along with everyone else, and then sit back and contemplate my own embarrassing moments. 

As is normal, I tend to think in long, run-on sentences that meander along a very poorly defined route that occasionally leads to an undetermined destination.  In this case, it has led me to an actual set of thoughts.  Prepare for a lecture.  Got your pencil sharpened?  Ears open?  Good.  Let’s begin.

Writing is a form of communication that dates back a really long time in human years.  At first, I am sure that mostly nouns and verbs were used.  Eventually, someone came up with the idea that we could modify nouns and verbs.  They added adjectives, adverbs, articles, and a whole lot more.  Latin was really big on conjugation in order to express present, past and future.  At some point we gained the ability to express ourselves in written form.  Spellcheck and grammar check arrived a lot later.
Okay, enough made-up history.  We’ll work on where my rickety trail of thought took me.

During the course of my business career I have met a lot of people face-to-face who have later written me.  It is often easier to write a quick note, especially with email being such an integral part of our lives, than it is to try to hunt someone down by phone. 

I wish that people would focus, edit and read what they write.  Their letters are terrible!  Some of them make no sense at all.  Poor grammar and spelling (spellcheck does not care if there is their way of getting enough capital to go see the capitol) contribute to misunderstandings and a poor overall impression of the writer.  While I know a lot of the people who write me emails and I know that they are pretty darned intelligent people, I also maintain a very bad impression of their overall education when they write me. 

A business email is the same as a job interview.  If you are serious about getting a job, you’ll dress properly and practice good manners and communication.  An email is even more critical because I can’t see you and my only available data from which to draw the conclusion that you are a complete moron, a demanding pain in the rear or a good person with whom I would like to develop a rapport is via that very same email.  Once a negative opinion is formed, it will never be completely erased.
I have trouble with the answers to emails as well.  Years ago, one of our managers would fire off responses to my emails that didn’t answer the questions that I asked.  We went round and round on it and finally she realized that she needed to read the emails slowly, or maybe twice in order to slow down and give her enough time to compose a good response.  Of course, I learned from it too and that lesson serves me well.  My job, as ‘interviewer’ or respondent to an email is to answer the questions asked and provide the information requested.  More than that is useless and less than that subjects me to another email.  Time is wasted and communication is hindered.

It is important to provide exactly what is requested.  Again, an example.  I had a friend call in a panic because he was being audited by the IRS.  He had received a letter requesting justification of his mileage for business purposes.  He was being audited!  He panicked.  When I arrived at his house and saw the ten or so boxes of receipts, returns, prior and subsequent years’ information that he wanted to bring to the audit, I stopped him.  “What does the letter request?” I asked.  “They want to see my mileage for work,” he began.  He went on to say that they were ‘going to catch him, and he’d be in jail or something’. 

I asked if he had kept a log of his mileage, which he had in a small diary.  We took that to the audit, where they told him how impressed they were with his record-keeping.  End of audit.

Too much information, long wordy comments and answers to unasked questions and just plain too much does us no good these days.  We don’t have time to read and certainly can’t absorb everything.  It is best left to long letters to family.


Go write your mother.
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