In a business writing class I taught recently, several managers ended their messages with this cliffhanger:
The sentence is not a cliffhanger because we don’t know what will come of the discussion. It’s a cliffhanger (something that leaves the audience hanging on for more) because we are waiting for another word or phrase. Let’s discuss what?
Discuss is a transitive verb. In other words, it requires an object. We can’t just discuss–we have to discuss something. Discuss is different from talk, argue, and debate. Those words do not require an object. We can talk, argue, and debate without indicating what we are talking, arguing, and debating about. Discuss does not work that way. We must provide an object when we use it:
Let’s discuss the issue.
Let’s discuss a solution.
Let’s discuss the football game.
Let’s discuss the use of transitive verbs.
To use "Let’s discuss" at the end of a message is to write an abbreviation. For informal email, that may be fine. But for much business writing–especially memos and reports up the chain from managers to directors to vice presidents–"Let’s discuss" is substandard.
Language evolves. Perhaps when I teach those managers again in a few years, "Let’s discuss" will have become standard in business writing. Maybe it will have been reclassified as a transitive and an intransitive verb. Until then it’s a cliffhanger.
If you don’t agree, let’s discuss . . . it. Please leave a comment.