An email arrived a few days ago. Here's a picture of it.


It just seemed fishy, so I dumped it in the trash, even though I am actually expecting a delivery that could well involve USPS (although not in Italy, and certainly not any time near Ferragosto). Why was it fishy? Because of the writing.

As it happens, on Ferragosto, Matt Gemmell had written about Language skills. Matt's basic point was that if you haven't mastered the essential elements of your mother tongue after say, 20 or 30 years, you probably have some kind of, er, issue.

Whatever a person’s excuse might be, it’s difficult to get past the idea that this is someone who has failed to comprehend and internalise the rules of a language they’ve used almost every day of their life. That’s the magnitude of the negative impression being created. It’s like publicly, repeatedly demonstrating that you can’t tell the time, or count – and that you bizarrely don’t see those deficiencies as particularly worrisome or problematic.

Matt was prompted by Brent Simmons, who the previous day had said:

If your writing — in tweets and especially on your blog and product pages — is full of misspellings and improper capitalization and other errors, I will lose trust in you and your product.

Both of them were really addressing their concern mostly to software developers, but I think it stands in all walks of life, including my unwillingness to trust the sender of that email. But there's another element in all this, which I have to confront daily, and that is people who think they are talking (and writing) English, because, well, it looks and sounds like English. In reality, however, it is a strange and arcane language that they happen to have been immersed in for a long time. They no longer realise that the world outside is using a different language. At least, they can't switch back and forth.

These people are totally comfortable with verbifying nouns. And nounification is even more impactful for them. A list that doesn't comprise of things might as well not exist. Enhanced empowerment gendered trainings are so reassuringly stacked. I could go on. You see the same sort of thing in fields like psychology, where the "intelligence" in Intelligence Quotient doesn't mean quite the same thing as intelligence, and being an extravert isn't the same thing as being extravert.

The good news is that at least some of these users of specialised vocabularies that resemble English recognize that they need help if they are to communicate successfully with other communities. The bad news is that not enough of them do.

So, Manager Jayden Cherry, purportedly at USPS, help us all out here. Ensure your emails are correct, lest I lose trust in you or your company.

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