June 16, 2011
Weekly Language Usage Tips: quit as an adjective or jargon and pet peeves & email etiquette
Tip 1: Quit as an adjective or jargon and pet peeves
Ah, pet peeves—we all have them. As most of you know, my number one pet peeve is the use of ‘principle investigator’ when ‘principal investigator’ is intended. My number two pet peeve is attending a talk in which the speaker prefaces a slide by saying, “You aren’t going to be able to read this,” and then goes on to show us a table in which the print is so small or so crowded that, of course, we can’t read it. Why show us the table when you know we aren’t going to be able to read it? And this happens all of the time! It make me want to get up and…but, I digress.
A reader writes
Here’s one of my pet peeves: Chantix, a stop-smoking aid, advertises that “most Chantix users were quit by week nine.”
Yeah. That’s a problem. I think most of us would be far more comfortable seeing, “most Chantix users had quit by week nine.” But it is not as simple as just saying that the copywriters were wrong. While most commonly used as verb, there is some precedent, in the last couple of hundred years, for using ‘quit’ as a predicate adjective, that is, an adjective that is part of a verb phrase.
I long to be quit of you.
Very Brokeback Mountain. But this doesn’t fall trippingly off the tongue, and it is a relatively rare usage.
While I don’t think Pfizer’s (the company that produces Chantix) use of ‘were quit’ is generally accepted as standard, I don’t think Pfizer is unique. I believe the usage we see, here, is jargon (language associated with a particular group or profession) related to smoking cessation (both researchers and companies producing drugs and devises designed to help people stop smoking). Jargon can be helpful when is promotes clarity and precision within a profession or group; it can also be detrimental when it excludes some from understanding what is being said. In this particular case, ‘were quit’ does neither: it doesn’t change or clarify what is being said nor does it promote or prohibit understanding. It seems to me that it is just jargon for jargon’s sake. And that, to me, seems silly. Quit works perfectly well as a verb, and this use, as an adjective, adds nothing at all.
Some observers think that while the usage is annoying, it is memorable, so ‘were quit’ was used by advertisers to increase awareness of the Chantix product. That’s another story.
In general, even when writing or speaking about tobacco cessation, I would stick to using ‘quit’ as a verb—it works perfectly well, and it is not apt to become somebody’s pet peeve.
If you have any pet peeves that you would like to share, send them to me, and I will write about them in a future wlut.
Tip 2: Email etiquette
A while back, I wrote about thank you emails and how some people hate them because they clog up their mailboxes. https://languagetips.wordpress.com/category/email-thank-yous/ I was ambivalent because saying thanks sometimes serves a function and because the emails are so easy to delete, but if I know someone loathes them, I try very hard not to send thank you notes.
It’s killing me. My instinct to say thanks is incredibly strong even though I know the email has nothing profound, or even useful, to offer.
For example, just the other day, I asked a colleague if he would be willing to teach a session of an upcoming course. I thought that the odds were against it because he is an incredibly busy man, but he said yes! And I was incredibly appreciative; however, he is one of those people who detests thank you emails. So I grit my teeth and said nothing. But, it’s killing me. (And I can’t help but hope that he is reading this and recognizes himself and knows that there is a thanks for him in here, somewhere.)
Anyway, that isn’t the subject of this tip, which is not really a tip, but a question. I was reading some suggestions about email etiquette which had all the usual warnings (e.g., keep emails brief, don’t write in all caps, don’t reply to all), when I came across some suggestions that were new to me but make (I think) a lot of sense given how the number of emails we all get daily has grown. I wanted to put them out there and see what people think.
The first suggestion is this: If the content of the email is complete within the subject line of the email, than add ‘EOM’ which stands for ‘end of message,’ so the recipient of the email doesn’t even have to bother opening it. It’s simple and indicates the writer is respectful of the reader’s time. Not a big deal but it makes sense to me.
The other suggestion was the big one:
“No need to respond.” Use it in a subject line, right before EOM. Or use it at the end of an email. What a gift to your recipient!
What a great idea (I think). I know that I would be very grateful to see this in an email (and I’d know that I didn’t have to send a thank you note, and I could be guilt-free). For someone like me who feels great pain about not saying ‘thank you,’ these four letters completely take me off the hook. Someone also suggested using NRN for “no response needed” which is even better, I think.
Here are some other suggested acronyms:
NBR: Non Business Related
FR: For Review
AR: Action Required or Requested
RRB: Response Req’d by
I wanted to see what you thought. 1) do you like these conventions and 2) should we (can we) adopt them?
If you want to see the blog in which I found these ideas, it is here: http://tedchris.posterous.com/help-create-an-email-charter.
Let me know what you think.