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The Illiteracy of Corporate American E-Mail 1267

Dave writes "There is a pretty amusing/sad article about functional illiteracy when it comes to professional e-mails. Some of the samples are just ridiculous."
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The Illiteracy of Corporate American E-Mail

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  • How they become? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by fembots ( 753724 ) on Tuesday December 07, 2004 @06:36PM (#11024988) Homepage
    How did these employees get into the company door in the first place? Didn't they have to write some sort of CV that their employers can understand? Or are they gradually getting worse in the corporate/email environment?

    P.S. This are one of the Slashdot articles that I am so worrifiedably scared to be picked at by one of these Spelling/Grandma Nazis [].
    • Re:How they become? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by eln ( 21727 ) on Tuesday December 07, 2004 @06:44PM (#11025133)
      A lot of people usually get a lot of help writing their resumes. Once they get into the workforce, there is a prevailing myth among the plebes that spelling and grammar don't matter, as long as the message is right. However, this ignores the fact that bad spelling and grammar can severely impact the coherency of any message, as well as hurting the credibility of the author.

      There have been several times when advertising departments at places I've worked have let huge glossies and other very visible ads get all the way through printing with major spelling and grammatical errors. How can anyone take a company seriously if it looks like everyone at that company is illiterate?
      • by Anonymous Cowpat ( 788193 ) on Tuesday December 07, 2004 @07:18PM (#11025634) Journal
        clicky []
        The geniuses suceeded in publishing a report with a map on the front which just had a gap where Wales should have been.
        Stuff Spelling and Grammar, 3 million people and a few billion sheep just ceased to exist!
      • by RealAlaskan ( 576404 ) on Tuesday December 07, 2004 @07:29PM (#11025787) Homepage Journal
        ... bad spelling and grammar can severely impact the coherency of any message, as well as hurting the credibility of the author.

        When I was teaching econ, I several times made the mistake of setting an essay test. It showed that the American students couldn't write. When I marked them down for incomprehensiblity, they were shocked! ``You should grade the econ, not the grammer.'' they said. Unfortunately, the grammer and organization was bad enough that there wasn't any coherent content to grade.

        Some of them did know the material, but it doesn't matter what you know, if you can't communicate it clearly to others. If you can't communicate, you might as well know nothing, because that's what everyone will assume.

        By contrast, some students for whom English was a second language had grammer problems, but their writing was coherent enough that I could figure out what they meant.

      • by asr_man ( 620632 ) on Tuesday December 07, 2004 @08:11PM (#11026292)

        ...bad spelling and grammar can severely impact the coherency of any message, as well as hurting the credibility of the author.

        "Hurting" above is incorrect. To agree with "impact" it should be "hurt":

        Bad spelling and grammar can (do two things...#1:) severely impact...(and #2:) hurt...

        But since this forum doesn't support editing, we'll forgive you.

        The Grammar Nazis

      • by Phroggy ( 441 ) * <.moc.yggorhp. .ta. .3todhsals.> on Tuesday December 07, 2004 @09:58PM (#11027445) Homepage
        Once they get into the workforce, there is a prevailing myth among the plebes that spelling and grammar don't matter, as long as the message is right.

        This myth prevails because it's what students are taught in school.
    • Re:How they become? (Score:5, Informative)

      by mordors9 ( 665662 ) on Tuesday December 07, 2004 @06:44PM (#11025138)
      I work for a fairly large corporation and supervise a group of people. I used to think the spelling mistakes were just typing errors, that all of the grammatical mistakes and punctuation errors were just laziness. Don't get me wrong, I mistype words occasionally and I certainly do not always use perfect grammar. But, I see an awful lot of emails and reports that are nearly incomprehensible. I have also come to the conclusion that an awful lot of people really do not know how to spell or have a basic understanding of grammar. I guess further evidence that our public education system is failing miserably.
      • by stwrtpj ( 518864 ) <.ten.tsacmoc. .ta. .trawets.p.> on Tuesday December 07, 2004 @07:40PM (#11025927) Journal

        The problem I run into at my job is not so much spelling and grammar. I fortunately run into very few problems with that. What sets my teeth on edge is lack of basic netiquette skills.

        For instance, I cringe when I see someone reply to a long email outlining multiple points in a discussion, only to see the person head the message with "My comments below IN CAPS". This person then proceeds to do just that, namely give all her comments in all uppercase. Ugh. There is no need for this. It is very clear what is quoted text and what is not quoted text.

        Another one that is rampant at my company is top-posting. Everyone insists on quoting a message in a reply and proceeding to post their comments at the top. When I try to lead by example and properly bottom-post, people complain my emails are not clear. Argh.

        At least I no longer have a boss like I did on my last job. She wrote her emails in all lowercase and used HTML blink tags.

        • by ShawnDoc ( 572959 ) on Tuesday December 07, 2004 @07:54PM (#11026084) Homepage
          When I first came to my current job, I was forced to use Outlook which automatically top posts. I got outlook quote fix, which makes makes it easier to quote in accepted "net" style. A few days later I was called in by our VP and told that I needed to start top posting like everyone else. I printed out several pages on the web where people discuss netiquette, and talk about how you should bottom post and only quote what you need to. Let's just say, I'm lucky I still have my job. I now top post on all business communications.
          • Don't quote (Score:4, Insightful)

            by Confused ( 34234 ) on Tuesday December 07, 2004 @08:42PM (#11026741) Homepage
            There's an easy solution to your quoting problem: Don't quote.

            Think about ehat you want to say and write a self-contained reply without the ugly point for point nit-picking style promoted by quoting.

            This has the added benefit, that your receipients either take your interpretation of what was said before or have to work and dig through their own archive.

            I had the experience, that this leads to calmer mail exchanges.
    • Re:How they become? (Score:3, Interesting)

      by calibanDNS ( 32250 )
      With a CV, you can spend a lot of time reviewing it and have it professionaly reviewed. If you apply to any job without having at least one other person proof it, you're insane.

      I think one of the problems with email is that it's so easy to prepare and send one that many people don't believe that an email needs to be correct. I don't claim to be very proficient with the English language, but I at least run spell check before sending an email, which is more than I can say for almost all of my coworkers.
    • Re:How they become? (Score:3, Interesting)

      by rocjoe71 ( 545053 )
      Doesn't matter where I work, the H.R. manager is one of the worst spellers in the company... Her problem is she forgets to proofread, but it still looks just as bad. I finally called her up about not proofreading stuff when she congratulated the wrong person for an internal promotion (not me).

      Alot of people are just disinterested in proofreading-- they'd realize how atrocious their emails look if they actually read what they typed before pressing "Send".

      As for your fear of spelling nazis, I fear you are jus

    • Re:How they become? (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Staplerh ( 806722 )
      I would argue that many of these employees are gradually getting worse in the corporate/email environment. It must be stressed that e-mail communications must be treated the same way as letter communications.

      I see it all the time. People who can write excellent essays, articles or letters on an actual physical piece of paper suddenly become illiterate idiots when they begin to write an e-mail.

      It's a corporate culture that doesn't treat e-mail with respect. This is along the same vein as mass forwards to p
    • by swb ( 14022 ) on Tuesday December 07, 2004 @07:19PM (#11025649)
      Many resumes aren't actually "read" for grammatical correctness, they're scanned for keywords either electronically or by people. Even when someone tries to read them, most resume books say "short and sweet" which precludes a lot of paragraph-type writing. Furthermore, the people reading them are often as weak at writing skills as the submitters, so any standard being applied is low to begin with.

      And then there are the people who have professional services do their resumes, CVs and cover letters -- either once for manual submission, or as part of a headhunter type operation where fixing their clients weaknesses is part of the job.

      And let's face it, when YOU were in college, what was the general intellectual orientation of most business/marketing school types, anyway? I found they nearly all fit the stereotype -- frat/sorority members with more interest in their personal appearance and social standing. Grades (and not necessarily *learning*) merely being important if they had some kind of status-oriented grad school plans or a cash payback plan from Mom and Dad for not flunking out.

      To be fair, there were people that fit that description who were real smart, too, but most of them really weren't. College was something they were expected to do, like wear Polo-brand clothes, and join the right Greek house, and get a corporate job.

      Is it any surprise that once this anti-intellectual group is in a position where they have to represent their ideas in writing that they fall apart? I think half the problem with them isn't just a lack of writing skills, it's also the quality of the ideas. It's hard to write well about a bad idea.
  • by MoxCamel ( 20484 ) * on Tuesday December 07, 2004 @06:36PM (#11024994)
    This wasn't posted by CmdrTaco. I'm just saying.


    • by twitter ( 104583 ) on Wednesday December 08, 2004 @12:07AM (#11028607) Homepage Journal
      What corporate America can't build: a sentence

      No irony was intended. Let's try another more direct form,

      CNet can't write a title.

      Sam, the limits of form imposed by advertisement funded, dead tree writing are clear to see. I'm sure the title was made up by some editor, but I feel bad for you.

      This wasn't posted by CmdrTaco.

      When the nations "Paper of Record" can't get it right, what do you expect from the rest of us? Slashdot digs up news that matters and that's all I care about. Noam Chomsky would say that the media should not be able to write a proper sentence if it's working right. He claims the media's purpose is to limit thought and it does so by presenting what it's owners consider the limits of an acceptable future in an obnoxious and belligerent way. You are supposed to think of news and politics as unpleasant, unpolite and ultimately something beyond your control. What you get from your average 15 minutes a day of news "consumption" is direction not information. George Orwell's "Duck Speak" is exactly what you should expect.

      Go back to sleep now.

  • by yorkpaddy ( 830859 ) on Tuesday December 07, 2004 @06:38PM (#11025018)
    See what happens when you stop saying mass in Latin.
  • by Anonymous Crowhead ( 577505 ) on Tuesday December 07, 2004 @06:38PM (#11025027)
    The subject line email:

    Body: (empty)
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 07, 2004 @06:38PM (#11025031)
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  • by Lieutenant_Dan ( 583843 ) on Tuesday December 07, 2004 @06:40PM (#11025055) Homepage Journal
    I find it lidicrous how people making 100000$ or more a year, just canot spell or at least use the spelchecker.

    It's a disgracement.
    • by porkUpine ( 623110 ) on Tuesday December 07, 2004 @06:53PM (#11025267)
      I wish I could mod your post +1 (Sad but True). Our CFO sends out company wide emails that make no sense at all. I often wonder how she was able to (lie/cheat/steal) her way into that position. It is embarrassing when the CFO of a 1+Billion dollar a year company cannot tell the difference between patience/patients or capitol/capital. Now, I'm not perfect... but I also don't send out company wide email very often. When I do have to send out email to others in the company I do this old fashioned thing called "Proof-reading". *sigh* (sad but true)
  • i m a l337 riter! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by bennomatic ( 691188 ) on Tuesday December 07, 2004 @06:40PM (#11025062) Homepage
    People just don't care anymore, do they? Capitalization, their-they're-there, you're-your, mixing tenses, dangling modifiers, unclear use of pronouns and run-on sentences are just a few of the most common problems. My wife has finally given me the validation I need in that she has me look over official correspondence she writes because I am, in her words, the grammar police.

    My spelling's pretty good, too, but not perfect, so no flames please!

  • by z3021017 ( 806883 ) on Tuesday December 07, 2004 @06:41PM (#11025083)
    Looks like they need some help from the Bad Boys of Punctuation []!
  • Sad but true. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by slusich ( 684826 ) * <> on Tuesday December 07, 2004 @06:42PM (#11025096)
    Far too many professionals simply cannot manage to type out a readable email. People with college degrees in high paying jobs should have some degree of competency with the English language. I have to wonder if this has less to do with the format of email and more to do with the disappearance of secretaries.
    • Re:Sad but true. (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Incongruity ( 70416 ) on Tuesday December 07, 2004 @06:54PM (#11025286)
      I have to wonder if this has less to do with the format of email and more to do with the disappearance of secretaries.

      That's a good point. Much like the web allows almost anyone to publish just about whatever they want, it seems that technology has also allowed every idiot to [and those of us who just play idiots in print =) ] to escape the watchful eyes of those more skilled at proper correspondence. Sometimes lowering the barriers to entry (as technology such as email and the internet do) do more than just let more people get in on it -- it also lets more crap in with all the good.

  • by beeplet ( 735701 ) <> on Tuesday December 07, 2004 @06:43PM (#11025111) Journal
    It seems like there are two separate possible problems here: people are coming into a company without the writing skills they need, and/or employees are not treating email communication with the same professionalism as other company documents.

    For the first problem, either a) don't hire people who can't write, or b) provide on-the job training to bring writing skills up to an acceptable level.

    For the second, I think the company needs to make a clear set of standards for both internal and external communication, and enforce them. External communication - to customers, etc. - is particularly important. Anything as badly written as those examples would be deleted from my inbox before I got to the end of the first sentence.

    I used to work as a technical writer for a large company, and they kept us busy. It's fine to hire engineers who are good at what they do, even if they don't have great writing skills - as log as you also hire someone to decipher and rewrite everything that comes out of the engineering dept.

    PS. I respectfully submit that the headline should read either "The illegibility of email" or "The illiteracy of corporate america"... I might try to make my email literary, but not literate (and my slashdot posts are probably neither...) :)
    • by Soko ( 17987 ) on Tuesday December 07, 2004 @07:25PM (#11025735) Homepage
      I used to work as a technical writer for a large company, and they kept us busy. It's fine to hire engineers who are good at what they do, even if they don't have great writing skills - as log as you also hire someone to decipher and rewrite everything that comes out of the engineering dept.

      IMHO, if an engineer is imprecise in his language, in any medium, he will be imprecise in other more important areas. This is especially true for a software engineer/developer/code monkey since C, Java, Perl and Python are but different languages where you are trying to speak to a machine, not a human. A Technical Writer shouldn't have to do much more than parse the comments in the code, provide helpful diagrams and give a higher level view of how to use the software. Using precise, thought out language in all your communications means that precision will spill over into your code. As an example, here you are espousing that you just need someone like yourself - a communications expert - to correct the errors of others and you make a simple spelling mistake (don't have great writing skills - as log as you also hire someone to) which gives your credibility a hit. Allowing yourself the luxury of a native English speaker being able to over-look that error and still unuderstand you is what starts the downward spiral.

      As far as the article goes, this is the issue - people let thier communications skills atrophy. They take it for granted others are able to correct thier 'misteaks'[1] or will reply back with a "Hunh?", and the idea can eventually be parsed out of the conversation. It's a question of discipline, of placing a real value of your communications ability and keeping that ability at its peak.

      I read over every e-mail I before I click send and ask "Do I sound lucid, professional and do I actually communicate my idea well"? It takes a bit longer to do, but it also cuts down on mis-communication.

      [1] Taken from that old poster that says "Know Misteaks Aloud!"
  • by A Red Pikmin ( 829779 ) on Tuesday December 07, 2004 @06:43PM (#11025112) Homepage
    For some reason I've never understood, a lot of people seem to think that because they write electronically, they don't have to spell correctly or use proper grammar. And even if they are naturally bad at such things, it's not like most e-mail clients lack spelling and/or grammar checks. I have no idea why people do this; especially in a situation like this where the writing is more formal and precise. Although for myself, I've conformed to more or less standard writing form in electronic communications.
    • I remember once getting a flame from my supervisor once that was completely incoherent. From what I could tell, she was chewing me out for something I'd done that wasn't wrong at all. (She had about a third of my experience at the company, and a fifth of my skill.) Instead of addressing the issue, I quoted back the worst sentence and asked her to rephrase it in standard English so that I could understand what she was saying. She never replied.
  • by Ctrl+Alt+De1337 ( 837964 ) on Tuesday December 07, 2004 @06:44PM (#11025135) Homepage
    It sounds like there are a lot of people who could use some lessons from Strong Bad's Rhythm and Grammar []. Though there's a helpful song near the beginning, wait until the end and click on the arm then the CD a few times.
  • Spell Czech (Score:5, Funny)

    by Easy2RememberNick ( 179395 ) on Tuesday December 07, 2004 @06:44PM (#11025137)
    Eye halve a spelling chequer. It came with my pea sea.
    It plainly marques four my revue miss steaks eye kin knot sea.

    Eye strike a key and type a word and weight four it two say
    Weather eye am wrong oar write. It shows me strait a weigh.

    As soon as a mist ache is maid. It nose bee fore two long
    And eye can put the error rite. Its rarely ever wrong.

    Eye have run this poem threw it. I am shore your pleased two no.
    Its letter perfect in it's weight. My chequer tolled me sew.

    Sauce Unknown

    (Reader's Digest.)
  • by RobTheJedi ( 547899 ) on Tuesday December 07, 2004 @06:45PM (#11025143)
    As more and more people are using phones with SMS/Text messaging capability, their spelling and punctuation will only get worse. Not to mention all the cryptic acronyms. My spelling and grammar are not the greatest, but I married an English major to compensate.
    • My spelling and grammar are not the greatest, but I married an English major to compensate.

      And conversely, an English major married you to compensate for the miniscule earning power that English majors have...
  • by updog ( 608318 ) on Tuesday December 07, 2004 @06:46PM (#11025151) Homepage
    "Considering how highly educated our people are, many can't write clearly in their day-to-day work."

    The article doesn't once mention the possibility that the authors of some of these emails may not have learned English as their primary language. Here's a new flash for them: English is not the most widely spoken language in the world (Chinese is).

    As we have more and more global influence in America's corporate workplace, we're going to see more and more people who have learned English as a 2nd language, which is probably the real reason why "corporate America can't build a sentence".

    • by Ahnteis ( 746045 ) on Tuesday December 07, 2004 @06:52PM (#11025257)
      Newsflash: In corporate AMERICA, English is required learning.

      Newsflash 2: People who speak English as a second language are often better at correct grammar then native English-speakers.
    • ESL musings (Score:5, Insightful)

      by MarcoAtWork ( 28889 ) on Tuesday December 07, 2004 @06:57PM (#11025348)
      Most people who learn English as a second language tend to have a very good command of its written form; this is because in most schools abroad English is taught following a grammar-first/speech-later approach.

      My spoken English, and especially my understanding of it, has improved by leaps and bounds since I started living in an English speaking country (Canada). I wish I could say the same about my writing: due to being constantly exposed to your/you're and similar constructs, I feel its quality has definitely decreased.
      • Re:ESL musings (Score:4, Interesting)

        by multipartmixed ( 163409 ) on Tuesday December 07, 2004 @07:31PM (#11025822) Homepage
        > due to being constantly exposed to your/you're and similar constructs,
        > I feel its quality has definitely decreased.

        When proof reading, mentally expand all contractions (e.g. you're becomes you are), replace there with here, and replace your with his. If the sentence still makes sense, you're good to go.

        I use the same types of tricks in french, expanding "a" to "avoir" and seeing if it changes the sense of the sentence (although that particular trick DOES mean you're proofing with mentally incorrect grammar).
    • I will acknowledge that attempts to write in secondary languages can result in more spelling mistakes, odd phrasings and sentence structures, erroneous pluralization and verb conjugation, and so forth. But given the examples in the article, I doubt that there's a language in the world that eschews grammatical structure so wantonly. Sometimes incomprehensibility transcends language.

      Speaking of the article, what's with page breaks occurring in the middles of sentences? That's extremely bad style.
      • by Sein ( 803257 ) on Tuesday December 07, 2004 @10:18PM (#11027613) Journal
        It's a stylistic trick to make you click through to the next page - if the page ends in the middle of a sentence you'll know that there's more to read and click next.

        Yes, I know that there's also that little 1|2|3 at the bottom of each page, but that broken sentence thing is there as an extra clue/incentive to make you click next to see how the sentence ends.

        It's one of the many tricks of commercial copywriting that breaks the rules of proper english...
  • by Himring ( 646324 ) on Tuesday December 07, 2004 @06:46PM (#11025153) Homepage Journal
    I got this email from our training supervisor one day. He's a cool guy and we joke a lot. His email was like, "how's it going?" And I wrote back, "my ovaries hurt" (I'mma guy btw), and then he writes back, "50 people in the training room just read that.... [he had his desktop pulled up on the big screen]." He was training on email that day.

    Erm, I'mma not sure if that was grammatically correct r not....
  • Holy crap! (Score:5, Funny)

    by wolfemi1 ( 765089 ) on Tuesday December 07, 2004 @06:47PM (#11025167)
    Corporate American e-mail can't read?
  • God help us (Score:3, Insightful)

    by kuwan ( 443684 ) on Tuesday December 07, 2004 @06:47PM (#11025173) Homepage
    Not everyone agrees. Kaitlin Duck Sherwood of San Francisco, author of a popular how-to manual on effective e-mail, argued in an interview that exclamation points could help convey intonation, thereby avoiding confusion in some e-mail.

    "If you want to indicate stronger emphasis, use all capital letters and toss in some extra exclamation points," Sherwood advises in her guide...

    Personally I like the other person's suggestion that you should be allowed only two exclamation points in [your] whole life. I've seen SO MANY DAMN CAPS and exclamation points!!! that I WANT TO SHOOT SOMEONE!!!!!

    Sounds like a scam, but it works. []
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  • s0? irc rul3z. ema!l iz 4 lam3rz n3way
  • by DragonPup ( 302885 ) on Tuesday December 07, 2004 @06:49PM (#11025206)
    "Me fail english? That unpossible!"
  • Problem is... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Sebby ( 238625 ) on Tuesday December 07, 2004 @06:50PM (#11025215)
    People write emails like they speak. No, I'm not talking about 'getto' talk, or anything like that - what I mean is that they type stuff,don't look back, and just send it. They don't take the time to re-read what they wrote to make sure it's correct, clear or coherent.

    Add to that the fact that most people are slow at typing, and their thoughts outrun their fingers and they forget to type some of those words. I see this every day in our online support desk requests.

    People just need to take the time to read what they write in their correspondance, and most just don't.

  • by antdude ( 79039 ) on Tuesday December 07, 2004 @07:00PM (#11025407) Homepage Journal
    I see this a lot with instant messaging. It's a lot worse there than e-mails from my experience at work and off work. It's pretty sad.
    • Actually, I have seen this the other way round. I (German) once had to work with an Asian developer living in England. When talking with him on the phone, his English sounded crude and I had the impression he didn't even know English.

      Then we agreed to switch to instant messaging. And we went along fine. His written English was great, while his spoken English was unbearable.
  • by Mr. Cancelled ( 572486 ) on Tuesday December 07, 2004 @07:04PM (#11025473)
    I work at a large financial company... Lots of money, lots of executives, and a lot of people who can't type a decent email to save their life!

    I'm always joking about how these people are represented by their emails. In fact you could modify a bad joke and make it worse:

    "You might be a corporate idiot if..."
    1. You type all your emails in the MS Comic Sans font
    2. You sign your emails with a custom signature in some big, illegible font
    3. You don't know how to properly quote the email you're responding to
    4. You type your emails in a needlessly large font
    5. You type your emails in a very loud, needless color (Fucia anyone?!)
    6. You never learn how to spell, and you send out all your emails with 1st grade-level spelling errors
    I could go on, but you get the picture. I SO wish that part of our performance appraisals would take into consideration how you present yourself in corporate communications. We have tons of people in executive positions who actually think that combining several of those items I've listed above is the best way to get their point across.

    And once you get a poorly worded email, written in Comic Sans font, colored hot pink, you have a lot less respect for the person who authored it, regardless of their role, or the content of the email. It's amazing to me that these peoples bosses don't see this the same way, but often they're equally guilty.

    Glad to know we're not alone though!
  • by Robber Baron ( 112304 ) on Tuesday December 07, 2004 @07:04PM (#11025475) Homepage
    I spil;l;ed a gl;asasas of waster on the keyas asnd now thias ias whast happenas when I type./ Thias ias reasl;l;y asl;owing down my productivityl./


    thias ias not as joke

    (name withheld)

    Yes I did actually receive this from an employee (actually an manager) of a client that I provide tech support for (Though in his defense, he really had spilled water on his keyboard).
  • Huh? (Score:4, Funny)

    by Wrexen ( 151642 ) on Tuesday December 07, 2004 @07:13PM (#11025571) Homepage
    I'm pretty sure he meant rediculous, unless the hundreds of idiots posting on the internet every day are spelling it wrong too. This is a new spelling error, which confuses me greatly - I swear it's doubled in frequency over the past year.
  • by AGTiny ( 104967 ) on Tuesday December 07, 2004 @07:17PM (#11025618)
    I honesty can't stand to even deal with someone who uses shorthand such as "u" or "ur". I think that one of the causes of this is poor typing skills. If you can't type fast enough, "u" or "ur" is easier than typing "you" or "your". These people must just assume people don't mind reading that garbage.

    Spend some of that $3.1B on typing skills as well as language skills!
  • Drooling thoughts (Score:3, Insightful)

    by ZeroExistenZ ( 721849 ) on Tuesday December 07, 2004 @07:35PM (#11025878)

    "E-mail has just erupted like a weed, and instead of considering what to say when they write, people now just let thoughts drool out onto the screen," Hogan said. "It has companies at their wits' end.

    Well I for one think this is cause it's just too easy to do so; as many slashdotters at one point or the other claimed they could "type faster then they can think", or certainly "type faster then writing a letter" (which requires some thought to compose, certainly if you're going to handwrite; it's a bit nono to scratch out your errors in formal mailing.)

    If you're able to just open up a browser, your email-client, type your first thoughts out at 300chars/min, and hit send in a matter of seconds you don't have this process of thinking out what you want to say, or which message you want to bring across. (or make sure it's understandable what you're trying to bring over)

    I catch myself as well at alot of 'stupid errors', while checkreading the next day what I wrote earlier. While I was pretty confident it was properly written.

    There should be a 2minute rule before hitting "send", to cure people having elliptic seizures on their keyboards while sending formal communication.

  • by Vaystrem ( 761 ) on Tuesday December 07, 2004 @07:39PM (#11025915)
    I think that part of the problem surrounding e-mail communication is its instant nature.

    In the past if you received a communication from a superior it would be either verbal or written. Written correspondence would take time and likely involve a proofreading by an administrative assistant.

    Your response would also take time and go through a similar process.

    E-mail allows instantaneous communication. I'm not sure how everyone else on Slashdot feels, but when I receive an e-mail I feel as if it requires my immediate attention. This is a radically different mental process than if I receive physically written correspondence. The extra time and reduction of immediacy ensures that my written correspondence is of a much higher quality than my e-mails.

    The immediate nature of e-mail means that our superiors may be expecting an immediate response to their communication. You may simply not feel that you have the time to compose a well written response, and that a timely response is more important than a coherent one.

    The audience certainly matters as well. If you are writing a report that will be physically distributed to many people you are more likely to take the necessary time to write a coherent response. Your response, especially if it is going to customers, reflects upon: you, your company, your division within that company, etc.

    I do not see the same consideration when mass e-mails are sent out, be they within a specific organization or between various organizations.

    These people, probably, know how to write. They just do not feel that they have the time to write properly. If they do not know how to write then the 'remedial' training suggested in the article may be appropriate. If the real issue is time and the culture surrounding e-mail communication, that sort of training is not only inappropriate but demeaning to those individuals.
  • by Mazem ( 789015 ) on Tuesday December 07, 2004 @07:42PM (#11025947)
    As evidence the article cites the following quote:
    "I updated the Status report for the four discrepancies Lennie forward us via e-mail (they in Barry file).. to make sure my logic was correct It seems we provide Murray with incorrect information ... However after verifying controls on JBL - JBL has the indicator as B ???? - I wanted to make sure with the recent changes - I processed today - before Murray make the changes again on the mainframe to 'C'."

    The reason why that message seems so "incomprehensible" is not because of the poor writing but rather because we, the not-intended readers, do not have knowledge of the systems discussed in the email.

    Actually the quote looks like it would be quite understandable if I knew
    (1) what the status reports were,
    (2) what the Barry file is
    (3) who Murray is
    (4) what "information" they provided
    (5) the details of the technobable at the end of the email.
    Clearly all of these are things the intended recipient would already know.

    I could write an email about an advanced physics topic using perfect grammar and spelling and it would be no more comprehensible to the average reader than this email.

    If that is the worst they can come up with than corporate America is in good shape.
  • Tolstoy?!? (Score:5, Funny)

    by grcumb ( 781340 ) on Tuesday December 07, 2004 @08:20PM (#11026412) Homepage Journal

    From TFA: "It's not like we're trying to hire Tolstoy."

    It's a damn good thing, too. The last thing corporate America needs is a 2000 page corporate org chart in which Alexei Sergeyevich has dotted line responsibility for Sergey Alexeyevich, and both of them are in love with Anya Lamentova (who is referred to half the time as Anyushka, making it look like these two are chasing different women so what's the problem?), and by the time Napoleon finally retreats from Moscow and Sergey Alexeyevich has recovered from the duel with Alexei (Sasha) Sergeyevich we haven't even come close to our quarterly projections and don't give a shit about any of it any more and spend our entire day checking the want ads.

  • It's nothing new (Score:5, Insightful)

    by M. Silver ( 141590 ) <silver&phoenyx,net> on Tuesday December 07, 2004 @08:23PM (#11026453) Homepage Journal
    I worked as a secretarial temp in college, and let me tell you: executives have *never* been terribly literate (well, at least since the 80's; I assume it wasn't much different before that). It's only that they used to have secretaries type their correspondence, so nobody knew.
  • by pipingguy ( 566974 ) on Tuesday December 07, 2004 @08:34PM (#11026633)

    Someone other than me originally wrote this. My apologies to non-native English-speakers, as this is bound to do some brane damage to those that do their best to try to comprehend:

    I have a spelling checker.
    It came with my PC.
    It plane lee marks four my revue
    Miss steaks aye can knot sea.

    Eye ran this poem threw it,
    Your sure reel glad two no.
    Its vary polished in it's weigh,
    My checker tolled me sew.

    A checker is a bless sing,
    It freeze yew lodes of thyme.
    It helps me right awl stiles two reed,
    And aides me when aye rime.

    Each frays come posed up on my screen
    Eye trussed to bee a joule.
    The checker poured ore every word
    To cheque sum spelling rule.

    Be fore a vailing checkers
    Hour spelling mite decline,
    And if were lacks o'er have a laps,
    We wood bee maid to wine.

    Butt now bee cause my spelling
    Is checked with such grate flare,
    Their are know faults with in my cite,
    Of nun aye am a wear.

    Now spelling does knot phase me,
    It does knot bring a tier.
    My pay purrs awl due glad den
    With wrapped words fare as hear.

    To rite with care is quite a feet
    Of witch won should be proud.
    And wee mussed dew the best wee can,
    Sew flaws are knot aloud.

    Sow ewe can sea why aye dew prays
    Such soft ware for pea seas,
    And why I brake in two averse
    When righting what aye pleas.
  • by peter hoffman ( 2017 ) on Tuesday December 07, 2004 @09:26PM (#11027181) Homepage

    It's not just corporate email. The "New York Times" now routinely spells "NASCAR" as "Nascar" as well as mangling other acronyms. I have written to them several times to find out what is going on but they haven't replied. I think it's the result of using MS Word which has a nasty tendency to downcase things.

    Since we're on the subject, I'll bring up a related complaint: I think the program which checks your spelling is a "spelling checker" and not a "spell checker" (unless you're some sort of warlock or witch). I know, I need to relax and get used to it but it does bother me.

  • by gidds ( 56397 ) <> on Tuesday December 07, 2004 @09:37PM (#11027248) Homepage
    While I heartily agree with all the posters deploring the current state of English as she is typed, I think the problems are deeper than just spelling and grammar. While they are the most obvious problems -- the easiest to spot, criticise, and correct -- if people aren't thinking clearly, then no amount of elegant grammar and immaculate spelling will convert their muddled ideas into clear and direct text.

    The author George Orwell wrote an article about this in 1945; I find it a very interesting read, and probably even more relevant today. (It seems remarkably prescient in many respects.) It's called Politics and the English Language, but don't let the title put you off: it's not about politics per se, just about how writers (mis)use English in various types of writing, political and otherwise.

    It's online in many places, for example here [] and here []. Well worth a read.

  • True story (Score:5, Interesting)

    by windowpain ( 211052 ) on Wednesday December 08, 2004 @02:49AM (#11029639) Journal
    I'm an independent film producer. For my latest shoot I placed an ad on Craig's List. Here's a reply I got:

    "hello, i am a freelance makeup artist who is also a film student. i have worked on many productions in the philadelphia area including film, video, commercial, print etc.. i would love to work on your project. give ma a call @ 267-nnn-nnnn. thank you
    Christy McCabe"

    My reply:


    I appreciate your interest in Dangerous Movies. We're hip, we're independent and we're unconventional. We have no confidence, however, in people who do not know enough to use proper grammar in business correspondence. The rules for capitalization have not been repealed. And it's obvious you did not proofread your email before sending it out. If you're that careless in trying to get the gig, how careful are you going to be on the job?

    I hope you accept this advice in the spirit in which it was given: not to put you down, but to educate you."

    Her reply to my reply:

    "you are a complete asshole. it is common knowledge that when sending an e mail, all rules of capitalization are thrown out the window. thank you for saving me from having to work on a shitty movie with a bunch of pompous assholes such as yourself. i hope your movie never makes any money.
    fuck off."

    I'm afraid Miss McCabe's attitude is not unusual among young people these days. She's not merely ignorant. She's indignant when someone is kind enough to try to help her out. Not to mention vulgar and hateful.
    • by KWTm ( 808824 ) on Wednesday December 08, 2004 @06:02PM (#11036538) Journal
      What a timely article! No sooner had I read this on Slashdot than I receive the following email.

      The background: I have a somewhat unusual background of an engineering education prior to entering medical school, and I've written on the Web a few articles for engineering students interested in pursuing medicine as a career. In these articles, I encourage readers to contact me with questions, and even though it has been a few years now, requests continue to come in regularly.

      This is not the only email I've received that sounds like this:

      > i read u r artical in information on medical.
      > pl let me know in which college/universities is engineering along with medical is avialable like
      > in university of western that if we dont get admission in medical we can continue in
      > engineering.
      > with engineering is good for females both monetary and job satisfation.
      [name withheld]

      My first thought was: "You gotta be kidding me." My reply:


      You will not get into medical school.

      Your sloppily written email to me reveals that you have failed to bother with any modicum of care in writing your request.

      First, your English is bad. There are parts I still don't understand, such as "with engineering is good for females both monetary and job satisfation". What is that supposed to mean? Women will be attracted to you if you become an engineer?

      While you might simply blame it on a lack of skill with English, it is clearly more than this. You make mistakes with something as straightforward as the name of the university. Who do you think you will impress with an essay entitled Why I Should Be Accepted To "university of western ontorio"? Are you not aware that the word "I" is capitalized in English? That "u r" is not a substitute for "you are"? (This in any case is incorrect usage, since it should be "your", not "you're" or "you are", and certainly not "u r".)

      You've read my article on entering medicine, an article freely available to you that I posted at my own expense of time and effort. Having presumably benefitted from my free advice, you now seek further free advice from me. Can you not show me some basic respect by putting some thought into compsing your email? Can you not even be bothered to press the "Shift" key when you type the word "I"?

      If all this is really due to ignorance, then you lack the basic learning capacity to function in medical school. If this is due to sloth, then all the worse --you may possibly have the potential, but you certainly haven't the attitude.

      Please save yourself and others a great deal of effort by turning your endeavours to other fields. Thank you.

      Even in answering your question, I've wasted more than you deserve. To compensate, I'm going to post your missive, and my reply, on the Web so that I will not be bothered by others like you.


You can measure a programmer's perspective by noting his attitude on the continuing viability of FORTRAN. -- Alan Perlis