Saturday, February 12, 2011

Correspondence & courtesy - not mutually exclusive

I started my little rant about the English language the other day with the intention of talking about manners, but quite unintentionally it turned into an essay on grammar. Today, though, I’m back on track, and I’m all about manners.

I’m not referring to interpersonal politeness, such as thanking someone when they pass the salt. No, I am referring to politeness in terms of the written word. Now you can see how I got sidetracked the other day.

It is clear that we, by and large, communicate using email more than probably any other medium these days, including the spoken word. Some very lucky people are fortunate enough to work at home, using email and the Internet to facilitate their employment. I think I read an article somewhere once, where it used a figure in the billions to account for the numbers of posts on Facebook on any given day. What it comes down to is this… We type, and we like it.

I had to ask the Captain on my ship, just the other day, if he still had an email from mid-December. He looked in his email trash, and found over 4000 deleted emails, dating back only since the beginning of November. That’s a lot of emails, and does not include the ones he kept.

So, seeing as how we are all staring at these screens more than we look each other in the eye these days, the issue of politeness and manners must be considered.

The beauty of looking a person in the eye when communicating is that both parties have the benefit of reading the other’s body language. It’s not called body “language” for nothing; it communicates, very clearly. It’s not just what is said, it’s how it is said that counts, too.

In written communication, though, that element is missing. Sarcasm can be attributed to a statement that the writer did not intend, and at the same time, the reverse could be true. Subtleties can be very subtle, therefore overlooked or misinterpreted.

Yeah, yeah, yeah. Whatever. Here is my point…

Is it just me, or does anyone else get an irritating little twitch when people sign an email / letter / whatever with “Rgds”, or even worse, “Brgds”? And what about "Thx" or "Tks"?

These... whatever they are, they're not proper abbreviations... drive me wild. Just out 'n out insane.

My own dearly beloved brother sent me an email once, and signed it “Regards, Doug”. I gave him a hard time about it, because signing an email to one’s sister with “regards” just sounded so formal to me! A less business-y “See you” or something, I thought, would have been better.

But since then, I have come to appreciate the fact that he actually took the time to type the whole word ‘regards’.

On the other hand, maybe it might mean that business is bad, because he has the time to do that. Obviously, all those people who feel that ‘rgds’ or ‘brgds’ is adequate must be so freakin’ busy, that they don’t have time to type all those extra letters!

It’s pure, ignorant laziness is what it is.

If I've done something for you for which you feel I am owed thanks, then thank me!!! None of this 'thx' or 'tks', business, please! If you can't bother to type the full word 'thanks', then save it. I wouldn't want you to strain yourself or anything. Geez.

If I truly am due your ‘regards’, then say so! Those additional three letters you choose to leave out won’t swell my head, I promise!

And believe me, I don’t feel any more special to be on the receiving end of ‘brgds’, either. If you don’t have time to write “best regards”, then don’t write to me at all, because I don’t have the time to try to break your code-words.

Text messaging is one thing. Correspondence is another. What is appropriate to type with your thumbs when you’re driving 120km out the Ring Road is not appropriate when you’re at your desk. (Heavy sarcasm on the Ring Road bit, in case there was any doubt. Another topic for another day…)

So, that’s it for today. Thanks for stopping by.
Best regards,

See how easy that was? And you ought to feel special, because not everyone will afford you the time to write those full words. Just pay attention, and you will see that for yourself.


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