Most of my workday is spent deciphering e-mails from colleagues. I’m the only person who seems to have a problem with the traditional corporate form of communication, which, it seems, is the poorly punctuated, spouted-off e-mail of whatever word salad happened to take residence in your forebrain while your fingers rested on the keys.
When I write an e-mail, it’s treatise on the task at hand, with complete sentences and adjectival clauses separated with real commas. I never use a pronoun or abbreviations. And nobody, of course, ever reads them.
Yesterday, I got this from my boss (who, I must point out, is a cool, un-corporate kind of guy, but must have been in a bit of a hurry):
When the time comes, please deliver these banners and do the i.o. We’ll extend this by one week so we’ll have new creative come June 1. So schedule the banners for ASAP to June 5.
Not so bad. We have a little conflict between “when the time comes” and “ASAP,” but I didn’t puzzle over it too long. There was the question, in my mind, over the new creative, so I asked:
Do you want the banners you sent to run while we wait for the new creative?
To which he replied:
What new creative are we waiting for?
I had thought I was on board and in the know. I was marching ahead, getting it done, and oh by the way small question? But now I realized that I had absolutely no idea what was going on.
What did you mean here? “We’ll extend this by one week so we’ll have new creative come June 1.”
I had dived right into the heart of the matter. No more pussyfooting around. Here’s what you said, sir, now explain that! Which he did, with just three words:
Deadline extension banners.
Although the words appear to be in my native tongue, the combination continues to elude me. Needless to say, whatever the task he wanted from me was, it’s totally been dropped.
About one and a quarter minutes later, on a completely different topic, I got this from a coworker:
Who has the vector file for the event prelim brochure?
Now this should have been cut and dry. We have an event, we have a brochure. I shouldn’t have bitten on this one, but I was discombobulated from other mysterious e-mails, and the “prelim” threw me off. Were we working on a new brochure now? Did she mean the show guide? I found myself compelled to ask: What’s the prelim brochure?
The brochure (preliminary bro) that is on the web
It’s a prelim brochure, or a preliminary bro, but it’s not a preliminary brochure. It’s not a preliminary brochure, probably, because it’s been printed, mailed, and posted on the Web for two months, and the event is two weeks from now. I do not think that word means what you think it means.