Friday, March 03, 2006


This is a word-to-word conversation I had with someone, lets call him A. He buzzed me on the office chat program. This is how it went.

[Me pretending to work very hard, eyebrows knitted, staring at the screen, while all I am doing is counting the number of lines of email that can fit into the preview pane window of Outlook]

A: Hi Shruthi, how are you? How is work? I hope it is piling up now.

[Duh! Who's this guy? And what kind of a person would say "I hope your work is piling up"... what exactly did he mean to say? And why is he asking me that? And that brings me to the first question - who is this guy?]

Me: Hi.. I am sorry I don't recognize you.

[Long silence]

A: Hi, please permit me to inquire if I am interacting with Shruthi of XYZ dept?

[Permit? Inquire? Interact?]

Me: No.

[Short silence]

A: I'm sorry for botheration, I was in the impression of speaking to the right person.

[Check out the formality, dude!]

Me: No problem.

A: Bye.

[Thank God he did not say "permit me to take your leave"]

Me: Bye.

This conversation could have gone as follows:

A: Hi Shruthi, how are you? How's work?

Me: I'm sorry, I don't recognize you.

A: Oh, aren't you Shruthi of XYZ dept?

Me: No, I'm not.

A: Sorry to bother you.

Me: No problem

Then the goodbyes.

Short and sweet. No excessive pressure on the keyboard. No extra brain signals required to decipher the meaning of the formal and long words.

Why do people strive to make their words so ceremonial and ponderous? This is especially obvious in mails and chats. Is it to give the impression that they know more English than they do? Whatever it is, it never ceases to amuse me.

In all the courses on email etiquette, we are taught to keep our communication simple. Indians have a tendency to sound too formal and use complex sentences in official correspondence. Just lighten up, use short and simple sentences. Use the active voice, run a spell-check, and avoid sms language (ur, gr8, etc). Go easy on the formality, steer clear of clichés, and be wary of Indianisms - they just slip into our writing every now and then. These tips should help for any kind of written communication, including blogging! Very often, a beautiful piece of writing is marred by such slip-ups, which can easily be avoided with a little awareness.

To sum up, I will take refuge in a cliché, so please forgive me. :) Just remember to K.I.S.S - Keep It Short and Simple!

Happy writing! :) And yes, if anybody knows the meaning of "Hope your work is piling up", please let me know! :)


Manasi said...

Hey coincidences of concidences!!!! I was just reading a link a collegue sent about KISS. And the next moment I see you have written about the same thing. I remember you had written a wonderful post about such conincidences. And let u in on a secret, the instance of these has gone up since you wrote up. You know black magic/ charms or something? ;)

raj plus said...

Why do people strive to make their words so ceremonial and ponderous?

Whaaa ? Ceremonial? Ponderous? Big words:)

Jokes apart, I have observed that you really practise what you have preached here. You pay a lot of attention to your punctuations, grammar and try to keep your format simple and elegant.

Shruthi said...

@Manasi: Wow :)) You know, you are not the first one to tell me this :) Probably I am a mystic and don't know it myself ;) I should buy a crystal ball and see if I can see anything in it :D

Shruthi said...

@Raj Plus: Ha ha :)) See? I fall prey to it ever so often :) Sometimes, a long word seems so apt that you cannot resist using it!
And thanks for your kind words :)

Raj said...

I always try to keep my mails as simple as possible. In fact, I can't make it formal even if I want to. I can barely skip using "cos" and "wud". And using the kind of language this guy did on an IM is absolutely unacceptable.

Anonymous said...

arrey what a chance u missed !! Once you get to know u dont know the person, you should go on talking this n that and yes use the same KISS principles there too....dont get into trouble asking pointed and obvious qns !! Final punch shud be I am sorry I thot u are some one I know or if u think u can get away with it, u can say sorry for troubling u, i was just playing !!

my roomie's friend pinged him on his YM once and I was using the comp while he was sleeping...I impersonated him and chatted for sometime...Later I confessed I am his roomie but knew her as his friend. Later we continued the chat for quite sometime till he woke up!

Tumba saacha aagadu olled alla ;)

Shruthi said...

@Raj: Yes! Sometimes I almost put a smiley in my official mails, and then stop myself at the last moment! :)

@Anon: Oh please, I would not want to continue talking with him and give my brain unnecessary exercise in trying to understand what he says! Besides, I was... ummmm... busy. ;)

Anonymous said...

"Hope your work is piling up" - interesting quote that. Was he hoping hat you would get more work or was he hoping that the finshed work was piling up or was he using the word without even knowing just to sound pompous. I guess it could be the third one ;). You are very right in stating that we Indians tend to be too rigid while writing and unknowingly slip in some 'desi' style lingo into our writing. But kya karen 'control nahin hota' :))


Anu said...

Just the other day, my ten year old son said to me, "you know mom, in our school, we follow the kiss!" I stopped in my tracks and slowly turned to face him. Grinning from ear to ear he said "yes, we follow the rule,'keep it simple, stupid!'" Phew! Slightly different from your version, ofcourse, but I suppose more appealing to ten year old boys!
yes, writing has to be simple. It is only then that someone would want to read it! But about avoiding indianism....I am not so sure. After all language evolves according to the needs of the speakers. I believe more Indians than Englishmen speak English. We have contributed thousands of words to the English language. Perhaps in the 22nd century, the Englishmen will speak English like us! Here is an interesting read:
Incidentally you dont hesitate to use the highly American 'dude'! Having said that, it is a good post. Infact, great blog!

Shruthi said...

@Kishore: Ha ha :)) My guess is that he doesn't know the meaning of "hope" ;) Yes, kya karen, hota hai! ;)

@Anu: "Keep it simple, stupid" also works pretty well :)) probably even better :D
That's a great article :) And by Indianism, I don't mean the kind in the article!
Two weeks back, I got a mail from a colleague "I moved into the flat, and my room-mate had promised to get all the cooking vessels, so I had not taken any. But he gave me a big hand."!!
It took me a while to understand it. When you have depended on somebody for something, and that person doesn't keep his end of the bargain, or breaks the promise, in Kannada, we say "Avanu kai kottbitta". - literally, it means, "he gave me a hand."
Now, I, knowing Kannada, understood this. But would someone else have? That's what I mean when I say "Indianism"! :)

Shpriya said...

Actually the traditional expansion is "keep it simple, stupid". Probably because of the open insult, it is refined now. :)

Shruthi said...

@Shpriya: Oh yes? Thanks for that nugget! Hmm, maybe they modified it to suit the office environment ;)

Ranjit Nair said...

Talking of 'Indianisms', how does 'kindly revert back to me if you have any issues' sound ? I actually receive an email with this as the bloody signature EVERY DAY !! Grrr.

dev said...

the language u use depnds wth whm u r takin 2. i cud writ ths way with my frnds.. but if its smtnn official d gd old frml englsh has 2 b usd.

sms has really creatd a language of ots own, shrt pwrfl n cryptic..

Pauli said...

Another good acronym is S.O.S - Style Over Substance. Botheration? Give me a break!! Sounds like a "Winnie-the-Pooh swear word".

Amodini said...

While I do feel that good language makes great writing I see your point regarding "keeping it simple". I sometimes get mails from desi colleagues at work and they include phrases like "Kindly do blah blah blah", and it sounds archaic and ponderous, but I do understand that for some of the old-school-type folks it's hard letting go of the formalities.
That was a funny conversation though ! And I don't understand the "work piling up" part.

Shruthi said...

@Ranjit: Exactly, thats what I mean :) The funny part is that "revert" in this sense is now so widely used, that you stop feeling it is strange :)

@Dev: Phew! that was difficult to understand :D - Yes, definitely, the styles differ, but you need not use Victorian language for formal mails either :)

@Pauli: ROTFL!:D Winnie the Pooh swear word :)) And wow, SOS is cool too!

@Amodini: Yes, you are right.. it is very difficult to let go once you have used such language over years. And yes, good language does not mean convoluted and archaic writing either! Let it be good, but let it be simple ;)

Supremus said...


I agree hehehehe - I cant stand it when ppl speak dramatically over the phone. And then I also hate it when esp my friends hang up on when I call them by "Thanks for calling, it was a pleasure!" - I am like - for christ's sake!


Aparna S Mallya said...

KISS is Keep It Simple, Stupid, me thinks. Short n Simple do good there too. And yes, one would feel more comfortable talking to a person who uses short, comprehensible phrases rather than long drawling ones.

Anonymous said...

Two commons blunders that I have noticed: First is the one mentioned by you, saying "I hope your work is piling up" when actually he probably wanted to say "I guess your work is piling up"
Second is saying "I don't care if you ... " instead of saying "I don't mind if you...'
I hear this at regulary my workplace, supposedly a highly professional workforce. I can only wish they realise that they are saying quite the opposite of what they meant!


Shruthi said...

@Supremus: Heh heh :D

@Aparna: Yup, in the comments above, I arrived at the conclusion, that your expansion is the right one but it has been appropriately modified for corporate purposes :)

@Rajit: Aha! I think you hit the jackpot.... That's what he must have meant by "hope"! :) Hmm... such simple commonplace words at least must be used appropriately! And oh, thank you! :)

Emma said...

Your post brought back some memories - of my life as a journalist when KISS was the mantra we always had to abide by. Yet we still had some people in the team who took great pleasure in being bombastic in their writing. I, for one, never understood who ever read them :).

sinusoidally said...

First time on your blog...

Until today I had not heard of this mneomonic KISS. Funny post.


chitra said...

Tee hee tee hee.... I love the funda of KISS (wink - wink ):) :).

Shruthi said...

@Emma: Only people who liked pretentious words themselves, I am sure! :O

@Sinusoidally: :))

@Chitra: Yes, yes, look how enticing the title of this post is ;) But you start reading, and what do you get? A treatise on how to write effectively :O

Abhinav said...

he he reminds of me of my writing habbits...hmm i shud be mpre careful :)

Shruthi said...

@Abhinav: ;)) Hope it helps!

Anil Jagalur said...

How right! Some colleagues completed three years (Apparently this is equivalent to an aeon in the software industry. I worked for nearly twenty years in my earlier company and missed the long service award!) in our company and took us out for lunch. Another colleague was thanking them and wishing them well. I had to cut him short and ask him "Are you delivering the valedictory address or what?"

I was glad to see that the victim of the thanks had not yet fallen asleep!!

Shruthi said...

@Anil: Ha ha :) Did you really cut him short??

LAK said...

Oh, here I was all ready to "enlighten" you, and I see rajit has already done it---many people say "I hope" when they mean "I guess", or "I imagine" or "I think". I swear, I know somebody who said I hope she is ill! really!
First time here. I like the way you write.

Shruthi said...

@LAK: ROTFL!! I hope she is ill!! How can people do this??!!
And yes, Thank you! :)

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