Business Writing

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Syntax Training | Lynn Gaertner-Johnston

September 14, 2018

How Do You Feel About Sloppy Supplier Messages?

A reader named Deborah shared a short email she recently received:

Dear Sirs,
pls let me have by return the supp docs about yr a.m. invoice because we cannot find our shpm.
Thks and rgds

How would you feel if you received this message? Would you care that it's riddled with errors? 

Let's count them:

  1. Dear Sirs: Deborah is not a Sir, and neither is half the world. 
  2. The sentence doesn't start with a capital letter. 
  3. "Let me have by return" isn't wrong, but it's too concise. Return what? 
  4. The abbreviations pls, supp, docs, yr, shpm, Thks, and rgds are lazy, and they're not all clear. Does supp mean "supporting," "supplementary," or "supply"? Shpm is probably "shipment," but I don't feel confident of it. I'd like to assume that a.m. means "morning," but with this writer, I'm not so sure. 
  5. Thks and rgds is not the way to communicate courtesy and professionalism, and a complimentary close needs a comma after it. (Many Europeans use open punctuation--that is, no marks after the greeting or the close--but this writer used a comma after the greeting and therefore needs one after the close.) 
  6. If this is an email, as Deborah said it was, it needs blank lines between the greeting, body of the message, and close. 

I normally don't have to deal with people who write this way. If you do, I'm wondering how you feel about it. Do you brush the errors off as standard for a quick communication? Do you doubt the writer's ability to handle your orders and think about looking for another supplier? 

When people I don't know write to me seeking a business relationship, I always judge them by their emails. If the greeting is "Dear lynng," I know it's a lazy mass mailing. If it has obvious spelling errors, I know their standards do not mesh with mine. Sometimes I respond to let them know I'm not interested; at others, I ignore the email, which doesn't seem worth my time. 

How about you? How do you handle such messages? 

Deborah, thank you for sharing the email.

P.S. A couple of days after this post, Deborah wrote to tell me that the writer was not a supplier, but a customer. You can read her helpful comment in the Comments section.

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