Tuesday, October 27, 2009


Following are three actual e-mail messages from a prospective student inquiring about the graduate engineering program I coordinate. He seems not to realize that e-mail is now considered a virtual means of formal business communication, and that textese is denigrated. It is probably a good idea to write to impress from the outset, especially regarding a graduate program that so highly values publication in refereed journals.

Dear sir/madam,
I was directed towards u by mr. [name of female staff person]. I m highly interested to pursue my masters from [university name].....i want to specialize in welding as i already have a bachlors. So i wud like to know how it wud be possible to take up this course at yr end??

[he failed to sign his message]

As he was referred by an undergraduate advisor, I inferred he was already on campus. Response to my request that he telephone:

Sir i wud have loved to obeyed u but alas i m from [country whose language of instruction is English]. moreover that sound lag on the telephone is something i m very uncomfortable with.

It would be the best for me if u cud explain my chances in the mail. i hope i m clear to wat i meant.

[again neglected to sign e-mail message]

Response to my e-mail in which I corrected his written English and used "(Ms.)" before my name in my e-mail signature to hint at my gender. Note the allusion to shakespeare (sic):

Respected sir/madam,

I am extremely sorry for my dismal electronic mail which supposedly had innumerable errors as pointed out by you. Thank you for correcting me. This is the first time I have been told the correct way to email to a course advisor.

I am aware that I am not perfect in english language so I used , by my highest regards to him, shakespeare's freedom of expression.
Secondly i would like to direct your attention to the fact that in [his native country], we do not have any one language of instruction in schools [not true] as we believe language is no bar for education but is only a medium for education. I have been studied in a medium other than english but still my GRE verbal marks(560) are about your requirement for giving toefl.
Lastly, in attention to your doubts regarding my cognizance in achieving bachelors, i have a grade point of 3.97 (university gold medalist, Prime Minister's scholar awardee) and my majors is not in english but in machines.

However, as my tradition goes, i would still be deeply apologetic for my informal letter content.

My Highest Regards,
Mr. [his full name, which could not be discerned from his e-mail address]


Kim said...

WOW! With the mention of Prime Minister, I dread asking if he is Canadian?

I found out this year that our schools are no longer teaching cursive writing, I guess they don't teach English either.

My son plays Xbox with his cousin over the Internet - the cousin doesn't live close by and so they don't spend much time together (thankfully).

The other day my son mentioned that his cousin (the same age) didn't seem very bright. I asked what he meant. He said "cousin" was always using words like funner and if my son used any big words, "cousin" became confused.

Nothing surprises me anymore.

Waitress from Mensa said...

Kim, Rest easy; not Canadian, but I think it speaks volumes that Canadians and Americans suspect the writer is one of their own!

Some college professors complain that students substitute "4" for the word "for" in their formal papers, among other transgressions.

It's encouraging, though, that Grammar Girl consistently receives all types of website popularity contests.

Anonymous said...

I dun become a journalist cuz I write English much gooder than others...