Archive for the ‘Writing Stuff’ Category

While my students constantly assure me that “nobody reads e-mail” (preferring instead to rely on instant messaging and texting for their conversations) the amount of focus given to e-mail and its proper usage continues. From today’s NY Times:

‘Yours Truly,’ the E-Variations

What’s in an e-mail sign-off? A lot, apparently. Those final few
words above your name are where relationships and hierarchies are
established, and where what is written in the body of the message can
be clarified or undermined. In the days before electronic
communication, the formalities of a letter, either business or
personal, were taught to every third-grader; sign-offs — from
“Sincerely” to “Yours truly” to “Love” — came to mind without much

But e-mail is a casual medium, and its conventions are
scarcely a decade old. They are still evolving, often awkwardly. It is
common for business messages to appear entirely in lower case, and many
rapid-fire correspondences evolve from formal to intimate in a few

Although salutations that begin messages can
be tricky — there is a world of difference, it seems, between a “Hi,” a
“Hello” and a “Dear” — the sign-off is the place where many writers
attempt to express themselves, even when expressing personality, as in
business correspondence, is not always welcome.

I’m as big a fan of technology as the anyone-but when you find yourself e-mailing the person in the next cube, or cc’ing your whole company just to CYA, something has gone seriously wrong.

*!#@ The E-Mail. Can We Talk?

As International
Association of Business Communicators President Julie Freeman notes,
most corporate policies are “aimed at protecting the e-mail system
rather than helping you be an effective communicator.” Many companies
are adding collaborative tools such as communal Web pages (wikis). But
the challenge of getting people to talk remains, especially among
younger staffers for whom e-mail or text-messaging has become the
default mode of discussion.

Catalogs, Catalogs, Everywhere

From the December 4th Business Week:

Thanks to e-commerce, as well as rising printing and mailing costs,
catalogs were supposed to be dead by now. But a quick visit to the
mailbox will confirm that predictions of their death have been vastly
exaggerated. Catalogs are, in fact, more popular than ever—and thriving
because of the limitations of shopping by pointing and clicking. Unlike
the bulky books of yore, such as the venerable Sears catalog, which at
times ran to 1,000 pages, the new breed of catalog is a glossy,
magazine-like statement meant to convey to consumers the look and feel
of a brand. That’s a task the typical home PC just isn’t up to, no
matter how good the resolution of the monitor. The prototypical new
catalogs don’t attempt to list everything in the product line. Rather,
they simply show a carefully selected and dramatically photographed

In the age of the Internet, literary exegesis (whether driven by
scandal or not) is no longer undertaken solely by pale critics or
plodding lawyers speaking only to each other, but by a global hive,
humming everywhere at once, and linked to the wiki. And if you are big
enough to matter (as any writer would hope to be), one misstep, one
mistake, can incite a horde of analysts, each with a global publishing
medium in the living room and, it sometimes seems, limitless amounts of

As both a (non-plodding) lawyer and college prof, I find the topic of plagiarism a fascinating one. Thanks to tools like Turnitin we can now easily catch the most obvious cases (my personal favorite-"But professor, I paid $35 for that paper!") but it is the more subtle cases that I believe will always prove more troubling.

On his blog today, Malcolm Gladwell disagrees with the horde regarding l'affaire Viswanathan, pointing out that it is a novel we are talking about, not a work of serious scholarship:

"Calling this plagiarism is the equivalent of crying "copy" in a crowded Kinkos."