One of the loudest and most buzziest bees in my bonnet is the one that bangs on about using conversational English when the team writes to customers.
Every time I talk about it I see eyes being raised to the heavens before glazing over.
But it is so important.
To illustrate how important I need to give you a quick history lesson.
You see the spoken word came first and writing developed later as a way to represent the noises we made. But the two forms of communication did not develop in parallel; rather their paths diverged.
For example, we nearly always say ‘I’ve got cheese in my sandwich’ but we nearly always write ‘I have placed cheese within my bread based snack’.
That’s why we get written sentences that say this: Further to my previous correspondence upon this matter, it would appear that I have yet to receive a response from you…
First of all, if it can be said, ‘phone instead, but if you have to write it, say it like this: I wrote to you a little while ago but you haven’t got back to me yet…
Anyway, no matter how much I bang on to the team about it, when I check outgoing emails and letters I still end up changing just one thing: the words.
But today, I have a new weapon in my arsenal for use against formal written English.
It was an email from a guy who needed extra information from me about a grant for some training.
I’m sure the guy is perfectly nice and pleasant but his email has given me a view of him as a snotty nosed jumped up little jobs-worth who’s got nothing better to do other than make my life difficult by not reading the stuff I sent to him…
And that’s all because of the way he worded the email.
The Subject was : EVIDENCE REQUIRED
Well, the capitals are the equivalent of him shouting at me for a start.
There were no niceties and the first para which used the words: I am currently assessing your claim…
As though we were making a dishonest one!
Next comes a list of 6 items for which he needs clarification… 5 of which were answered in the information pack I sent to him.
And it was just so formal: advise the link between… Please evidence who attended the course…
And so on.
So, please, please avoid shouting, Make sure you have read the inbound communication and and write how you would say it.