"Your time is limited so don't waste it living someone else's life.
Don't be trapped by Dogma which is living with the results of other people's thinking.
Don't let the noise of other's opinions drown out your inner voice.
And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition, they somehow already know what you truly want to become."
- Steve Jobs

Monday, January 05, 2009

Grammar and politeness - where has it gone??

My friend Jamie forwarded me a copy of an email correspondence he had had on Fri. First he sent this:


Sent: Fri 02/01/2009 19:41
Subject: Barometer Enquiry

Dear Julie

I have a barometer that used to belong to my grandfather, and which - so I am told - has not been seen to work for years. I'm interested in exploring how it might be fixed, and how much that might cost.

Would you be interested in me sending you some images of the barometer?

Looking forward to hearing from you,

Best wishes

Jamie Parr


And he received this reply from Julie:

"Let us have the photos and we can assess it.
[Company name removed just in case!]"


To which he responded:

Dear Julie

"Let us have the photos and we can assess it"?

Frankly, no. Learn to write friendly and professional emails to your prospective customers, and they might give you their business. As it stands, this prospective customer is prospective no more.



Well said Jamie. What the fuck is happening to our manners and grammar? I also get such gems thru to my email too, and mostly on eBay wher I message a seller asking a question about an item for sale. My questions are always polite and open with a "Hi there" or something similar, and end with my name. The responses are usually along the lines of:

"hi they are very soft cheers john" (in response to my asking about some slippers)

"i dont no the size i can't find my tape measure do you want a photo" - (when asking about jacket measurements)

I also get some priceless emails from people via my Sandtrooper website, asking about where to buy armour from. Wish I'd kept some of them, one of them went something like:

"hi there i luv your armor were can i get some from I've always wanted to be a stormtrooper lol"

And again at work, course enquiries:

"hi there I'd like to study pharmacy who should i talk to thankyou Jessica"

How I'd love to reply and say "Dear Jessica, until you learn to FUCKING TYPE AN EMAIL PROPERLY I heartily think University is the wrong choice for you. Try Kindergarten. Love Rache xxxx"

This is becoming increasingly common with the new generation of people who have grown up with texting and the internet. More and more people sign up as customers on my Fuzzbutt.co.uk website and they fill in their names and addresses and NEVER use initial capital letters, it drives me insane as I need to copy and paste their details into my accounting software and I can't abide seeing shit like

joe bloggs
23 coronation street
london sw11sw

(what the fuck is it with not leaving a space inbetween the postcode????)

The revolution of texting, Instant Messaging, and email have meant the peope are more and more used to firing off quick one-liner messages to their friends, and this starts to show in proper correspondence. Nobody bothers with grammar in these quick one-liners, nor capitalization. Predictive text on mobiles forces you to spell properly so many people turn it off and use "txt spk".

I guess it's fine to type quick emails with no salutation or goodbyes when you are contacting close friends (I'm guilty of this!) but NEVER let it spill over into more professional correspondence!!!! As demonstrated above, the oh so polite Clock Lady lost a customer and therefore, lost £££ simply due to the fact she couldn't be arsed to spend another couple of minutes typing a more polite email.

The problem is, unless people learn at school or do a relevant business course at college, WHERE will they learn about writing proper letters? It's not rocket science, but the new generation are simply not being taught. You'd think common sense would dictate you start a letter with "Dear John" and end it with your name, but ultimately, if the parents were never taught, then the kids will never learn either.

Is letter writing taught in junior schools anymore? Do kids write "Thank you" letters for their Christmas presents, or do they just send a text to Auntie Freda and Uncle Bob "hi its jessica thx for my present happy new yr". I assume letters to Santa start with "Dear Santa" still? But of course, now you can email Santa and leave your grammar and politeness at the door.

There are more and more articles in the media about graduates and how they are not landing the jobs they want and how employers are despairing at their lack of basic communication skills". Extracts:


"University-leavers lack the ability to perform basic tasks such as holding a proper conversation, dealing politely with customers and showing initiative."

"Graduates lacked 'soft' skills such as being able to listen, communicate properly, develop ideas, work in a team and demonstrate initiative and innovation. 64% said graduates lacked customer handling skills."

"About a third said they felt awkward making presentations or speaking in meetings. One in four did not like negotiating and one in eight felt awkward answering the telephone."


I agree with the telephone issue. So many calls I receive from students....instead of the "hello could you help me please I'd like to attend a Chemistry Open Day", I get "er yeah I want to study Chemistry?" Or best of all, they get their MUMS to ring. "Oh good morning I'm ringing on behalf of my son who wants to study Chemistry", to which I *always* want to respond "Can little Timmy come to the phone or is he a mute? Does HE want to study Chemistry or do YOU want HIM to study Chemistry and he pretty much has no choice?"

Of course our Government, who are terrified to put their foot down on anything now, for fear of "abusing our human rights", have even entertained the idea of allowing students to write their exams "in txt spk". Indeed some students already submit coursework and exams in text speak, to the horror of their lecturers - it beggars belief. Rather than force people to learn proper grammar and spelling we are once again just giving in to the "easy option". Exactly what will an employer think if a graduate comes to them for an interview, gets the job, and starts writing important coporate policies in txt spk? Mind you I'd hope that if he submitted a txt spk letter of application and CV, he'd not even get an interview.

But if poor grammar becomes the norm and majority, employers won't have a choice - and then what - time out from the office to go to writing classes?????

I get a lot of customer feedback from my Fuzzbutt customers and it is mentioned numerous times about the "polite correspondance", "excellent correspondance", "friendly and fast emails". It makes ALL the difference and certainly helps me bring in business! I get many enquiries asking what products are suitable sizes for Chins or Ferrets....can you imagine if I replied with something like "hi there look on the website all the sizes are there thx rache"?? Of course, all the product sizes ARE on the website, but I still answer and give all the details they require, chuck in some friendly banter and sign off properly.

I'm of the generation that grew up without a mobile phone or a computer, and I DID used to write thank you letters and letters to Santa and even Jim'll Fix It, and I used to have penpals - OMG remember them? PENPALS, where you'd actually sit for at least an hour and write a letter to someone???

I miss those days before mobiles and the internet, if I'm honest. I used to read books for hours and enjoy looking thru past letters from penfriends. The internet has changed my life for the better in many ways but it's also stolen so much from me, mainly in the time I used to have curled up with books and my own imagination. I've begun to switch my mobile off on night times quite a lot as I just don't want to be disturbed. I'm even trying to stop with the Facebook addiction, but having the darn PC next to my sewing machine makes it hard as I need to be online for customer emails coming thru.

So what is next for the grammar-deficient Generation????

No comments: