More or Less Formal

About the only form of writing I hate doing is formal letters as they are the written equivalent of trying to do complicated business over the phone (something I also hate). The language is stilted and artificial and I always feel uncomfortable writing it.

This is especially true if the formal letters are recommendation letters for students.

I don’t like that my students’ futures possibly lie somewhere beyond my typo-ridden fingers. For example, I was almost done with the first letter today when I realized I was misspelling the name of the school.

I hate starting letters with “To Whom It May Concern” as this is horribly impersonal and makes me appear to have done no research whatsoever on who to apply to. Granted, I had done no research whatsoever, but it would have been nice if my students had, just to make me look better.

Since certain details are the same for different students, I have to be careful about any material I recycle from one letter to the next. He becomes she becomes her becomes his.

(Random But Slightly Related Aside: since it is trendy to adopt a gender/sex neutral method of being addressed, I will no longer be Mister Lively or Sir. Instead, please refer to me as “You Sexy Thing Lively” or just “You Sexy Thing”.) 

Complicating matters today was that I wrote a letter for a student who didn’t actually deserve a recommendation because he had a habit of plagiarizing on assignments. Instead I wrote a tonally neutral missive describing the course and how he enjoyed doing internet research as part of his writing process.

Now they’ve been sent off to someone who will probably, if it’s even possible, make them better.

 

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