Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Scam-Mail, Bad Grammar and Audience

Every now and then I check my spam filter and find the usual junk mail: ads for foreign pharmaceuticals, phishing scams, solicitations to buy products to make my hair (or other things) grow, and the many variations on the Nigerian inheritance scam.

Here is an example of one such email:

Good day my dear,
In confidence,i have to introduce myself, i am Miss. Christy Watars,24 years old,I am the only child of late Mr & Mrs.Richard Watars.
I prayed before contacting you, please for God sake do not see my mail as embrassment as we do not know each other before.  I wish to request for your assistance in my efforts to procure the transfer of my inherited fund from my late parents for investment ventures under your care and directive,while i continue my education in NewZealand.
I inherited Three Million,Four Hundred Thousand US-Dollars ($3,400,000.00)I wish to require your assistance in receiving the transfer of my inherited fund in your account for investment purposes only, it is my wish to come over to Newzealand to further my education while you take care of the investment on my behalf.
i need your urgent assistance to transfer my inherited fund to Newzealand and also your assistance to secure my future in NZ where I will continue my education
Please I am waiting to hear from you soonest,God Bless You.
Yours sincerely,
Christy Watars
If you are a teacher of English, you feel almost compelled to correct the grammar, punctuation, syntax and formating and return it to the user, don't you? C'mon - don't you? Yeah - me too. And even though we don't proofread and edit the document, we all must wonder, "Why do scammers send out email with such horrendous writing? Don't they know that no one is going to buy the message with such glaring mistakes?"

Well, there is a method to the madness, and a mistaken assumption on our part. ALMOST no one will buy the error-riddled pitch. But the ones who do not recognize the mutilation of the Queen's English are exactly the ones who the scammers want to reach.  If you can correct the grammar and spelling, you are probably too smart for the scammers. They aren't trying to reach you. You are not their audience. People with lower intelligence are their audience.

So - if you want ONLY people with lower intelligence to give your message a fair hearing, then, for goodness sake, do not pay attention to spelling or grammar or punctuation!

Most of our students - and we ourselves - do not hope for such a limited audience. Whether it is teachers teaching, preachers preaching, advertisers advertising, or students studying, we hope to reach more than just the dumbest people around. In those cases, good grammar and correct spelling and proper punctuation insure you include the widest possible audience - including potential employers, potential publishers, colleagues, and leaders of the community. Everyone is included when good writing takes place. (I've never heard anyone say, "I ain't going back to that restaurant - they spell everything 'right' on their menu. Smarty-pants know-it-alls!" or "I don't think we should consider this candidate; his writing is just too perfect.")