Are mail greetings and salutations redundant?

There’s a great post on this subject at Are greetings and salutations redundant in an mail? – Stack Exchange.

Mail is a quick and efficient way of communicating. However people often come across as rude – even when they don’t mean to.

To get around this I start most mails with ‘Hi’. It is respectful, but informal and short. It doesn’t carry any baggage.

Any other word here seems wrong. Mails that start with ‘good morning’ or ‘good evening’ are polite, but make potentially wrong assumptions about when mail is read. ‘Dear Mr…’ sounds like something from Jane Austin. ‘Hello’ is acceptable and I sometimes remember to write ‘Kia Ora’ when mailing another New Zealander.

There’s no need to sign-off with anything at the end of a message. I have a signature at the bottom of my mail – but that’s mainly to let people know how to get in touch.

Why I don’t like the term ICT

ICT is a dumb piece of bureaucratic jargon that found its way into the technology mainstream.

I say dumb because it confuses matters and makes understanding unnecessarily difficult. The term is widely misused as a substitute for IT.

Information technology

IT, or information technology, is readily understood. It refers to computers, software and all the other stuff used to create and process information. This includes the communications networks used to move information from one place to another.

Information technology can be complex, but we all know what it is when we see it.

ICT (information and communications technology) fails as a useful name because it isn’t clear and unambiguous. It is irritating and unnecessarily pompous.

You could argue the word communications is redundant – after all most modern communications technologies are a sub-set of IT.

Blame public servants

It’s not surprising the term was first used by people in government. Pomposity is the public servants’ first language. But the term is creeping in elsewhere.

The Wikipedia entry for ICT gives a fairly detailed explanation of how the term is used as a synonym for IT but has a more general meaning that takes in telecommunications and other technologies.

We need a term to describe the bigger technical picture, but ICT is too much like IT and that leads to the two terms being confused.

We’ve been here before

In the late 1980s the term IT&T (information technology and telecommunications) was pushed as an alternative to IT.

At the time there was much talk about convergence between IT and telecommunications. As expected the two industries converged and IT&T fell from favour.

Not issues: problems, stuff-ups, failures

Technology products no longer stop working or fail. Instead, they have issues. This is particularly true in telecommunications.

We had problems with an Orcon site hosted. The company told me it was having “issues with a server”. The issue meant it stopped working for 24 hours and was flaky for days after.

When customers on Telecom NZ’s XT network had problems with data connections in October, the official company response said:

“Data issues affecting some XT mobile customers earlier today are now resolved. Some customers in the lower North Island and South Island using mobile broadband on the XT mobile network experienced issues from mid-morning.”

Yes, we are back to the crazy world of PR and marketing euphemisms.

Wasteline test your writing

Helen Sword’s Wasteline Test is a great online tool to improve your writing.

You cut and paste samples of your writing into a box, hit the button and the software scans your writing.

The Wasteline Test counts and highlights the weak verbs, abstract nouns, prepositions, adjectives, adverbs and ‘waste words’ in your copy. Then it provides you with an overall ranking from lean, through fit and trim all the way up to ‘heart attack’.

New Zealand academic Sword designed her test to help university students improve their writing skills. She has also written a book, The Writer’s Diet – which I’ve yet to see in any local stores, but I’ll buy a copy if I do. 

The Wasteline Test works just as well for most types of writing and includes a number of ideas I’ve written about on this site.

I’m pleased to report most of my recent stories rank at the lean end of the scale. My old school journalist style uses more be verbs than Sword likes, but not too many.

Avoid these traps for your readers

Your job as a writer is to get your message across clearly and quickly.

One way you can sabotage communication is by laying traps for readers. They stop a reader’s flow as their eye scans over text.

Punctuation – as the name suggests – stops flow. This is why I leave out optional commas.

You can also slow down a reader’s flow when you use capital letters incorrectly. For the same reason you should never write a word entirely in capitals.

Likewise I don’t use the ‘&’ symbol – instead I write ‘and’. The exception to this rule is when the ‘&’ forms part of a company’s name.

The same applies to ‘+’.

It is also better to write out percent in full than use %. Although some newspapers, including one where I work, insists on using the symbol.

Never resort to phone text-style language in anything written for a wider audience. It isn’t funny, clever or useful.