Saturday, June 06, 2009

Sundar's Guide to Corporate E-Mail Writing

This article will give you an heads up on how best to write emails in any corporate culture, and live to tell the tale.

1. Open any email client
Usually this is Microsoft Outlook, and therefore this discussion assumes Outlook as the software being used.

2. Type in the subject
In the Sub: field, type in the subject of your email. Experts say this should not be more than three words. However, it should be bombastic enough to capture the attention of the folks lazing it out onsite, so it doesn't really matter if it doesn't make any sense. Suppose you were writing to the Electricity Board regarding frequent power outages, do not say "Frequent Power Cuts" in the subject line because they'd have gotten a million mails with the same subject, and probably would have automatically forwarded them to their junk folder. Therefore, go in for something that'd keep them sufficiently confused, like "Electron Flow Deficiency". You could of course, try something innovative, like "Brazilian Bikini Girls", but that really is your call.

Gone are the days when we wrote long winding leave letters beginning with "Respected Sir/Madam, As I was suffering from...".
These days all you do is start off with a simple 'Hi'. Then, you type in the first name of the addressee. Even if he/she happens to be the Supreme Commander of the Imperial Forces. Something like "Hi Darth" should do fine!

4. Type in the message
You had it easy so far. All you did was type in three random words. Now comes the tough part. You have to compose a KISS email. Hang on! Before you go into rhapsodies, you have to know that KISS is an acronym for Keep It Short and Simple. That is really hard, because till last year you were writing 44 page long epics on obscure quality practices in Total Quality Management. There is also the added problem of making the email sound like you've been working your ass off when in reality you've been experimenting with ways to make the coffee dispenser churn out more milk.
Don't worry! There is a simple trick to get around this conundrum: Throw in as many acronyms as possible. Masters of email writing usually start with a simple 'FYI', which stands for 'For Your Information'. (I think. No one's really sure) Alternative beginnings include PFB (Please Find Below), (Yeah, like I didn't know I'd find the message below), and PFA (Please Find Attached). The usage of the last one is highly not recommended unless you have a spreadsheet full of random numbers and column headers like "Net planned/unplanned task efforts ratio" to send in.
Now, think hard on what productive work you've done since morning. It's not much, I know, but every little bit counts.
Right, you spent the morning reading Harry Potter erotica. Here's what you say:
Analyzed the FSD (Functional Specification Document) and the existing code to enumerate the list of changes to be made to include said enhancement into the product. Documented the dependencies and regression defects likely to be injected and have checked the file into the network. Then, rename the said Harry Potter book as "Dependencies and likely Regression Defects Injected by Enhancement No 4.3.72" and check it in. Trust me, no-one's ever going to open that document.
There, you've accounted for the morning. Of course, you then went and took your two hour lunch break.
What next?
You created an empty class at 2 P.M in a fit of workaholism. You typed out the name of the class, opened a curly bracket, pressed the carriage return down a couple of times, and closed it. How do you describe that? Suppose the class was called UserInteractionMonitor, this is what you type in: Created a concrete wrapper class called UserInteractionMonitor that implements the IUserInteractionMonitor interface and implemented the methods exposed by the interface.
Although you've made a couple of striking points, you still run the risk of being accused of shirking work (not without reason), so you need something that really clinches the deal. It's easy. Open all available documentation. Some Star Trek obsessed geek in the client's IT team is bound to have created a method called FutileResistance() whose sole function would be to display the message "This is the Borg. You'll be assimilated. Resistance is futile." All you have to do is to put an issue in the issue tracker saying that this method couldn't be used by you and that you were not able to figure out its purpose, and that it wasn't part of the design, and that it was stopping you from your work.
There you've said what you did today. But what do you plan to do tomorrow? Continuing in the previous vein, this is what you say:
"Going forward, (this phrase is absolutely essential in any email. More important than the subject), we'll be working on the User Interaction Monitor pending clarification on the functionality of the FutileResistance() method.
Presto! Your message is ready!

5. Sign
Yours truly, yours sincerely, faithfully, obediently, and all that jazz are a little dated. Damn those English classes that drilled such stuff into my head. All you have to put in is "thanks", or perhaps "thanks and regards", and type in half your first name, or whatever it is everyone calls you.

6. To
Put in the email ids of all the people you think should read this mail.

7. Cc
The email ids of all those people who do not need to look at this email, but must be given the pretense of respect.

8. Bcc
Your girlfriend. You don't have one I know, but still :)

Here is a sample email...


Sub Jedi Invasion

Hi Darth,
PFB updates for today.
An old Jedi Master, Obi Wan Kenobi has boarded the Ship.
FYI, he wields a colorful tubelight which he thinks will slay random robots.
Going forward, you'll feel him in the Force.
So far, he has damaged three relay conduits and beheaded a robot. We have raised an issue with the damage control team who'll be replacing the said components before EOD. PFA the damage assessment report.
We fired three support staff today because we found their lack of faith disturbing.
We are also facing slow connectivity with the engineering division. Please look into it and do the needful.

Thanks & regards,
Chief Commander, Vetti Timepass Division.


goldenguru said...

scene da sundar. i must remember this post. it may help me in future. ;)
and the example s also toooo gud :)

akila said...

hey yo have so humorously described a work we do evryday..superb!! hey have good way of mixing humour in ur writing.. good going!

raja said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Sundar said...

Guru and Akila,

Danks a lot!!

bragey said...

Brilliant post.. I used to have the 'Hi Darth,'msg'Thanks and Regards, Bragadees' routine when I first joined, but later it just evolved into 'Darth,'msg'-Brags'. Once you get comfortable with the people you work with, it comes down to 'Yo, that deck was dope Cheers'..

bragey said...

A trend you generally observe with managers is the compulsive need to inject humor into all emails, and once they get a pattern set, it gets so cliched. Like, whenever they want to say 'high level view' they would say 'this is from 36,000 feet above sea level' or some crap like that

Sundar said...

Good to hear that you can actually say that deck was dope and all. Dunno if I can do some humour injection where I work.

Visu said...

Haha, that's brilliant. You must start publishing books for dummies.. :P ..

"This is the Borg. You'll be assimilated. Resistance is futile."

ROFL..!! He is da man!

Visu said...

Where's the BCC part by the way? Now, don't tell me you don't have a girl friend.. And oh,"Brazilian Bikini Girls" eh? .. Wonderful kannapa!!

ishwarya said...

heyy good one...:)

Vatsala said...


This can be a good variation for the regular "worked on logout feature" type of end of day reports that get sent. (by me)

Vatsala said...

@Visu... I second Visu.

Marc said...

This was written as work, admit it!

Sundar said...

I would have written it at work if only they gave me access to the internet.

TD5M4PP3R said...

ROTFL! I took a few days to comment since I have just now entered corporate life. Thought I can't relate to some of the stuff, I still find it extremely humorous!

And yeah, like bragey says, my manager/leader changed words from "referenced in future" to "will be looked at nostalgically in 2060"

Good work!

Bharat said...

FutileResistance()...The utter, The comdedies!

Raja Deepak said...

Gud one da... reallly enjoied it.. sry 4 da long delay in commenting...

Visu said...

Clavering the hokum..!

ViJaY said...

visu : I second dat!! Tempus fugit ki jai!!

sriram said...

Good Post dude.I think u must have sent so many e-mail using outlook.Ur way of writing was superb ,which is mixed with Humour.Keep writing some posts.

Anonymous said...

hey nice work.impressive..
hey dude can ya add me in ur blog roll? i have added ya :)

Sundar said...

But you didn't, did ya?

Srividya Jayaraman said...

Ei, post nalla irukke!:) Corporate lyf taking a toll on u, huh?! Odambe pathuko:D

Chindu's biography said...

Oh.. damn educative post dude!!! Lemme take a copy of this n keep in my desk. so tat i can use it at office.. :)

Mahesh said...

Kudos to the author for such an informative post..and for keeping up the standards as high as ever for making me always refer the dictionary for few words....

Sundar... .NET la project nu sonne...but adhunala ivlo manasu odanju poi mail anupinu iruke nu theriyama pochu da..

B said...

Utterly hilarious! :D
Not everybody can satirize so well :) The paradox of the society still remains to be the inverse proportionality between the amount of work and the length of the corresponding email.

(Just a passer-by)

Visu said...

Sari pa sundar. "Educative" post laam podra... :P .. ENISP. Keep gathering, I say ;)

Anonymous said...

Интересно написано....но многое остается непонятнымb

Sundar said...

adhe thaan.

The Mad Hatrick said...

Hey Sundar,

awesome post.

I usually add an obligatory, "If you have any further queries, feel free to call me anytime" and conveniently forget to mention my number ;)

Boss, I hope you are not reading this. if you do feel free to call me ;)