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4 Business-Correspondence Pet Peeves

Published: August 7, 2012

Author: Hillary Read

Not to go all Oatmeal on you (though I would if they hadn’t already retired that trophy), but I see a lot of emails that need editors. We all do. Typos, dangling participles, wandering apostrophes, the eternal there/their/they’re conundrum, the tiny land mine that is “its.” (Really! It works without an apostrophe under the right circumstances!)
I make mistakes all the time (misspellings, skipped words, one particularly galling gaffe with an industry powerhouse that I’d love to blog about if he’s okay with it). You blush, you learn, you consult dictionary.com a few extra times, you move on. You’ll make another mistake soon enough, but as long as you learn from it…
Anyway. The oncoming rant (note: this TechCrunch column is great, but I hadn’t read it when I sat down to write this) is not about proofreading; it’s about deliberate practices that hit me like nails on a chalkboard. Again: I’ve screwed up, sometimes memorably. But sometimes it’s therapeutic to vent, so here goes: 4 business-correspondence pet peeves! 
1. Punting a commitment right at the due date. Hey, things come up. Deadlines always arrive too fast. Most industry folks are juggling 100 things a day, so it is totally reasonable when someone raises a hand and asks for more time OR admits, a week before a deadline, that alternatives should be sought. But getting right up to a delivery date and THEN punting? That is, to keep up with the sports terms, bush league.
2. The inability to say “no.” In a closely related topic, if someone asks you to do something and you know you probably can’t (or don’t want to), just say no! Don’t leave the request sitting, quivering with hope for a good answer. This means that someone’s going to waste time on a follow-up, and another follow-up after that. Just say no the first time. No bated breath, no wasted energy…nobody loves to hear “no,” but a good, flat “no” is WAY better than nothing at all.
3. Writing with great urgency, then following up two weeks later. This is a big internal credo at PPC Associates; we use it for each other and for our clients. If you ask someone to get something to you as an absolute high priority, the least you can do is a) respond with any needed follow-ups; b) confirm that you got what you needed. To wit:
Person 1: “I need this today!”
Person 2: (aside: Oh my God!) “Here it is!” (Pause to towel off.) “Is this everything you need?”
(Crickets.) (Person 2 chews nails down the quick.)
4. And finally, the “Best” signoff. Best what, actually? Best regards? Best wishes? How “best” can it be if you can’t summon the motivation to finish off the phrase? This is a TOTALLY subjective one, and it has 15-year roots from one stuffy English professor who walked around his lecture platform with a pole up his tweedy arse, barely looking at the undergraduates trying to stay awake for his lectures on modernism, post-modernism, deconstruc…zzzzzzzzz. And I know, tons of very nice/well intentioned people use “best” — “my best friend is a ‘best’ user” and all — but if it’s really so superlative, commit to it.
Thus endeth the rant…though additional pet peeves are HIGHLY encouraged in the comments.
Hillary Read, Marketing Manager

25 E Washington Street
Suite 420

Chicago, IL 60602

(650) 539-4124

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