In this column I feature a winner and a
loser. The winner is Brian, who wrote to thank me for some
advice I offered to sales people:
"You advised that ending a letter to a
customer or future customer with the phrase, ‘If you have any
questions, please do not hesitate to contact me,’ does not show
action, and you suggested that we end with a phrase like, ‘I
will follow up with you in two weeks, but in the meantime feel
free to call me with any questions.’
"Since reading your article, I have
applied your advice to my letters. My call-backs have doubled!
When I do follow up with the customers in two weeks, customers
have replied, ‘Brian, I was expecting your call.’
"Keep up the good work. With all the
success I am enjoying, I will invite you to my yacht some day.
Imagine that. Something I recommended
has made a difference in someone’s life. The thought makes me
feel good. Not to mention my fondness for yachts.
Well, here’s the other side of the
The loser is Beverly, who was the
recipient of the following example of egregious writing. The
loser is also anyone who receives and tries to make sense of
something so poorly written. The subject of the message has to
do with changes in a cell phone plan:
"The monthly recurring charge will
increase from $10 to $15 and the per minute rate will increase
from $0.07 to $0.09 for calls beyond the 300 minute block."
It gets worse:
"This plan will also no longer be
offered, however, until this plan is discontinued entirely, you
may keep your plan unless you move or change service, which will
require you to choose another long distance plan."
To quote Beverly: "Huh?"
I’ll say. How can so much pain and
suffering be inflicted on the hapless reader in so few words? Is
this jumble of syntax and disjointed thinking the result of poor
education, carelessness, an inability to think clearly – or all
three? And what kind of company would let something so poorly
written go out to a customer without an editor along the line
saying, "Whoa, hold on now. You can’t send that"?
Let’s set aside for now the comma
splice before the word however. (A comma splice is two
complete sentences spliced together ungrammatically with a comma
rather than separated by a period or some other closing
Consider the non sequitur, "This plan
also will no longer be offered," just after the explanation of
the plan’s price increases, and then the perplexing reference to
the plan not being "discontinued entirely," at least for now, so
we may keep this partially discontinued plan unless we "move or
change service," in which case we’ll have to choose another plan
Oh, my. Remember Major Major in Joseph
Heller’s Catch 22? You’re not allowed to see the major
when he’s in his office. Only when he’s out.