Saturday, January 15, 2011

RE: RE: RE: Enough Already!

Mary Katherine arrived home last night with an instruction sheet regarding costumes for an upcoming play in which she’s appearing. The sheet was full of many long paragraphs that covered both sides of the page. For an extra challenge, THE ENTIRE SET OF INSTRUCTIONS WAS WRITTEN IN CAPITAL LETTERS. It made my eyes ache just to wade through the document for important information. I tried to imagine the writer of this missive, deciding that a flow of consciousness style was the best way to communicate with parents, (they’ve got plenty of time to savor the long form, right?) and hey, while I’m at it, why not hit the ol’ CAPS LOCK AND SEE WHAT HAPPENS?

Maybe all caps are making a comeback this season, like thigh-high tights and cowl necks. I just ran across a colleague’s bio on, and the entire thing was written in capital letters. The only description missing was: STRATEGIZED AND DEPLOYED MANY LARGE LETTERS FOR A MAJOR ALL-CAPITAL INITIATIVE ON THE WEB.

Excess takes many forms when it comes to writing. I have another freelancing friend who occasionally dips her toes into the waters of Mommy Volunteering, and she finds it to be a strange land, grammatically speaking.  “What’s with the exclamation points?” she asked me one day. “It’s like, oh, if I only put six exclamation points on this email about the Valentine’s Day Class Party, no one will open it, but seven points will have them clamoring for more.”

“Also,” I said, “Re Re.” 

“What?” she was baffled.

“You know, the complete inability to change the subject line, so every message appears with RE: RE: RE: RE: at the start.”

“While we’re at it,” she chimed in, “there’s “Reply All,” too.”

She’d hit a nerve. The bigger the committee I’m working on, the more likely the Mommies are to hit “Reply All” to a message that really ought to go to the chairperson (or to no one at all). Really, I didn’t need to know that about how that ovary problem will keep you from making the Saturday morning meeting at the coffee shop, but all 50 of us on the committee are happy to know now.

The two-page, ALL CAPS missive has its own evil twin, I believe, and that’s the outline. I hate outlines. I remember a time I was volunteering on a charter school startup project. One of the people on the committee was a big-time lawyer, or, as he would say, attorney. Everything this guy wrote, and perhaps thought, was crammed into an outline --  a serious one, with four levels down reading A) iii) b) iv).  I had been asked to create some marketing materials for the school, and I saw his look of utter distaste for my black and white photos of needy kids and short, punchy headlines. How can anything be worth reading if it doesn’t have a subparagraph c, section ii? Even though I prefer the pithy to the rambling, we were not destined to be friends, Mr. Outline and I. It’s the Roman numerals that kept us apart, I think.

I have a pal who jokes that no matter what work-related problem she shares with me, I diagnose that a PowerPoint presentation will fix her up in a jiff. I do admit to a deep and abiding love for bullet points, but it’s not as if I harbor a a secret desire to convert all of Shakespeare to bullet points or anything crazy like it.  Or do I?
·         To be
·         Not to be
·         Question? 

Or, as the mommies would say, Question?????????????

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