February 3, 2014

Writing Single-Line Emails

Dear M,

One of the most difficult things for a writer to do is to write a simple, single-line email, where the content is not even important.

For instance, a couple of days ago I received a mail from a colleague: PFA the xyz document. What was important was the document that was attached. The PFA line was intended only to alert me to it.

When it was time for me to send a file to someone, came bewilderment. I could never type "PFA". If I were sending a text message, I might resort to short forms like that. I type rather fast on the keyboard, and I don't think "Please Find Attached" should take more than a few seconds to the slowest typist.

Now coming to "Please Find Attached", what kind of language is that? Highly corporate? Technical? Insensitive? Trying-to-sound-important? Too-busy-to-type? I call myself a writer, for God's sake. How can I write like that? Besides, writers generally have an aversion to the Passive Voice.

So I would not type anything as unwriterly as Please Find Attached. So what else can I say? "Attaching the document" sounds kind of okay, though the -ing form is harrowing. More importantly, where has the "I" gone? No one writes "I" any more. Hope you're doing good. Have taken care of it. Will do. Want to see how it goes. Am fine. 

The writer is writhing in agony, seated before an email with an important attachment, trying to compose a single line that the recipient is not even going to read because his interest is (rightly) in the document.

I have attached the document with this email, I finally wrote, and hit send before I could think any further.

In comparison, a novel seems so less torturous.


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1 comment :

  1. I too can never type PFA! What a take on such an everyday issue.