Monday, October 13, 2008

One Human Being's Etiquette Is Another Human Being's Disbelief

Last week, I participated in an all-day editing workshop for continuing education purposes. The goal was to address my wordy writing, but as you can tell, I still have plenty of rehabilitation to do in that area.

My classroom hours were nothing short of eye-opening. I learned a gift basket full of knowledge about the art of email writing including how to be more concise and direct, how to use more action verbs, and how to account for tone and phrase sentences in a positive light.

Without further hullabaloo, presenting some juicy knowledge tidbits for consumption!

I. Whoever Wrote These Gems Is a Sparkling Genius

Sentences I had to edit (I am leaving them uncorrected):

"I put it in the 'tickler file'. Look for it in their." [THE TICKLER FILE!!! ZOMG!]

"Hey folks, we'll be open 24/7 so come on down for your bling-bling today!" [A store that sells bling-bling? Where? Gimme gimme!]

II. Birthdays Bring Out People's Bad Sides

Another exercise was writing a topic sentence to sum up a collection of bulleted points.

Here is a sampling of the points:

"People in the office like to celebrate birthdays.

Some people get a big fuss made over them, and some don't.

We need to make things more fair.

Some people are dieting, and all the treats are hard for them to resist.

It seems like the popular people get the biggest parties.

Some people want to celebrate holidays other than birthdays, such as St. Patrick's Day, Thanksgiving, etc."


Office birthdays are a turbulent time.
photo courtesy of Flickr and Jason Pratt

III. Time Machine Troubleshooting

There was also a page on words to avoid in emails, such as slang and cliches. Examples of slang were "Git 'er done, bling, cool, no way, get out." Examples of cliches were "tried and true, a monkey's uncle, outside the box."

(If I could count the number of times I used "a monkey's uncle" in an email, phoooooo...well, for starters, I don't even know if I can count that high!)

IV. Yay, Feminism!!!

Another section targeted gender-based pronoun problems and other offensive language such as instead of saying old maid or spinster, you could say single woman!

Or instead of saying the little woman or ball and chain, you could say wife!

Or instead of saying girls (when addressing adult women) or ladies, you could say women!

Or instead of saying big guns, you could say man of the house or husband

I'm kidding about the last one. 

V. Leave the Sass at Home

My favorite exercise was called "From Feisty to Friendly" and involved rewriting a rude, nasty email to be nicer and kinder.

The email example was a memo from Monroe Godzilla (that was actually his name) to all unit employees about cleaning up after themselves in the office kitchen.

It included such gems as "No matter when I go in there, it's always a pigsty!" and "I just don't know what it takes, people" and "Whoever it is needs serious help, and I plan to give it." Clearly, some really great stuff.

The surprising thing was after correcting it, the memo turned super passive-aggressive with ample use of feel-good words such as "reminder," "support," "success," "team," and "benefit."

The Second Life office kitchen never gets dirty.
photo courtesy of Flickr and Pathfinder Linden

VI. In Signing Off...

We were also advised never to sign an email off with "Thanks" as the tone can be misinterpreted as sarcastic or blunt.

Instead we were told to use something more respectful and formal such as "Sincerely" or "Best regards" or, the leader by far, "Cordially" (obvi along with attached jpegs of a powdered wig and a cumberbund).

VII. No, For Real This Time!

I just made this seventh point because I learned today that lists should have no more than seven points. Anything after that and the human attention span just fades out into default buzzy mode. You're welcome!

In conclusion, it was a fun day! The end.

XOXO,
Parna Grrrrl

2 comments:

hexagon-becca said...

Maybe I just hate people, but I can't seem to write enough passive aggressive work-related emails lately. Why do we (I'm referring to the human race in general, I guess) force awkward unpleasant "collaborative" situations upon each other? Seriously, people. May I be blunt? If I work with you, I probably don't like you. I'm only here because I get paid to be here. Now, go clean up the kitchen, douche-bag and stop asking me how my weekend was. . .it was awesome because I spent it with people I like.

Aparna said...

Thank you for your support and feedback!! And let it be said that passive-aggressive emails are hard work. There's a subtle art to balancing the straight-up bullshit with the thinly veiled hostility that can take years to master.