I was just reading an office mail that was not only missing essential punctuation, it also had the sender sign off his name with a small letter. Personally, I cannot take such mails seriously. It’s got nothing to do with being a grammar Nazi, but the very fact that you did not bother to read through your mail before sending it and realise that thanks to the missing comma, it actually fails to convey your message to a large extent, makes me feel that you don’t care if anyone takes it seriously. Hence, I didn’t.
I was always judgmental about how people wrote, especially when it came to spelling errors or incorrect use of articles, but I have softened over time. I realise that when you are typing fast, and typing a lot, the chances of missing a word here or there, is a definite possibility. It might have also had to do with the fact that I find myself finding errors in my own writing, most of which are clearly typos. Spelling errors, I still find difficult to digest because it doesn’t take much to see that brilliant red line under what you have written, and correct it. But incorrect or no punctuation? I hate it.
The thing is, most people who miss it out, speak relatively well. But when they put what they want on to the page, they stop bothering about how it would sound. Unfortunately, when I read in my head, I read like the writer is actually speaking to me. So if Dennis says –
‘Really appreciate the report going out on time. Thanks Dennis.’
I will think Dennis is thanking another imaginary Dennis, and not me. Because Dennis did not bother to add a comma between Thanks and his name. And this will make me very annoyed with Dennis.
Then about the paragraph formation. Why does every line have to start in a new line like we are doing bullets for a news reading session? And if it is, indeed bullet points, why is there nothing explaining what is about to follow? Sample this –
Have we completed the report?
Do you think there is an opportunity to make it more visually appealing?
Can you send over some talking points around it?
Let’s talk tomorrow.
I think that’s a whole lot of space for what could have been fit in two lines. And quite frankly, I have been generous while adding the question marks here, because most of the times, one is supposed to add their own end of line punctuation, based on your conclusions about what the sentence is expected to convey. Because, who has time to click shift+? to get that little thing out there?
And this deciphering, it is still possible in the above example, but now, look at this.
There are reports to be run over the weekend who is doing them
Now what do you make of the above? Ok, the sane mind would say –
There are reports to be run over the weekend (conclusive statement). Who is doing them? (question)
But trust me, the actual point being made was –
Are there reports to be run over the weekend? (question) If yes, who is doing them? (if, then question).
And this gets my goat. First of all, what is with the convenient switching of ‘Are’ and ‘There’. How tough is it? There are – means you are sure. Are there – means you are asking. Just because while speaking you (wrongly) say – There are reports due this weekend? – with a lilt at the end which confirms that it is indeed a question, doesn’t mean you write it too. And that too, you forget symbolizing the lilt with the little question mark! Why?
Not cool, because the reader, in this case me, will first stress about there being reports to run over weekend (which I was not aware of, and just assumed there were, because you said there are) and then look for who is doing them (a wasteful exercise because there are no reports). Like I said, very, very annoying.
What is even more fun is that I have actually pointed this out to folks, hoping to make them a little attention to what they are writing. And most often, I have been responded to with a – Ah, who bothers about such little things! We don’t have time to proof read each mail’. Or even worse, ‘Come on, we are Financial analysts, not English teachers’. And so, I have pretty much given up. And instead think of these as fun brain teasers, where I try to beat my own record in the time I spend to understand mails, because yay, puzzle!
Because, is there a point in trying to convince others that how they sound in writing matters, just as much as how they sound while speaking does? (question) Especially when they really don’t care? ( additional question)
Nope, there isn’t. (conclusive statement)