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Tuesday, January 23, 2007

HOW TO WRITE A LETTER

Or not..

READ FROM THE BOTTOM UP - this chap had written a rude letter to us about a graph that he thought was irrelevant... See our formal response to him - and then see his rude comments. Exasperated, I penned the below... READ FROM THE BOTTOM UP


Dear Sir (note, this is how one generally begins a formal letter, even if it is sent by email)

Thank you for your wondrous insights into the world of publishing and design. It is evident you have an alternative career in front of you should Brewin Dolphin continue with its phase of redundancies following the split cap mis-selling debacle which almost scuppered it two years ago.

I am not, however, referring to your insight into graphic excellence, as you call it, but into your ability to pen your thoughts. May I suggest reading a book, which has been read by more than 12 million people since it was first written many years ago - “How to make friends and influence people”. I think you will find it insightful.

One chapter is about knowing your client. This includes spelling people’s names correctly, for example the commissioning editor of, say, a leading trade body publication (just out of the top of my head, hypothetically speaking). These things do matter, especially in complaints, when you, for example (again hypothetically) may wish to be taken seriously instead of having the recipient start daydreaming about various ways to staple your tie to your forehead.

Also, please remember, graphs cannot be “miserable”, unless you have also read Radlett Barnard’s (Phd) mighty tome on the Anthropomorphosis of the Inanimate in Literature. (Maxwell & Butler, 1975, 2nd edition 1992). A graph can merely inflict misery, but only if you look at it.

I apologise if we have inflicted misery on you and ruined your whole, entire, pitiful little life by publishing this graph. I am devastated to think we may have started you on the path to madness. Please please please do not start bombarding the director of BT, or the chief cashier at Tesco’s with letters about stray apostrophes in the word “tomatoes” or the lack of decent pavement in St Ives.

May I suggest, lest the offending graphic cause you more pain, that you stick a post-it of a smiley face over it until we publish the next S&IR. We have another bar chart in there too, which I think you will find most satisfactory. Unless you have an obsessive compulsive dislike of the colour red.

Have fun at your colleague’s leaving drinks, and try to pay more attention to more urgent matters, such as calculating and advising clients on Splits more carefully. To paraphrase a great man: “It is also hard to achieve and takes art, science and time.”

Now please feel free to reply, I am more than happy to have a debate. And I can see you now from my van.

S Girard (MA, (Hons with distinction) score one up to me).



Forwarded by **************
His letter...........

Thank you for your response, however one phrase rather grates: "The graphic that you found so unsatisfactory".

This intentionally implies that it is only I who finds it "so unsatisfactory" and that this is therefore a subjective and personal issue. You seem reluctant to internalise the fact that the graph was miserable.

Graphical excellence is that which gives the viewer the greatest number of ideas in the shortest time with the least ink in the smallest space. It is also hard to achieve and takes art, science and time.

There are a variety of other things wrong with the graphic in addition to the failure highlighted by XXXXX Gasgoigne, but to be honest I don't have the appetite for a debate - I do not ordinarily make a habit of corresponding with journals. I refer you again to Edward Tufte's "The visual display of quantitative information". Once this has been absorbed the failures and indeed the solutions to presenting the data graphically will be readily revealed.

Please do not feel the need to respond.

M, (FSI MBA)

------------------------------------------------------------------------


From: T
Sent: 22 January 2007 13:40
To: M
RE: S&IR January p.14 Graphic



Dear Mr XXXXXXXXXX

Thank you very much for taking the time to write. The graphic that you found so unsatisfactory accompanies an article which was written by XXXXX Gascoigne, who is the magazine's commissioning editor. I therefore asked her to comment and she has replied as follows:

"I am sorry that you thought the graphic on p.14 did not deliver sufficient value to the article. On balance, it clearly would have benefitted from having 2 x-axes so that the variation (or, indeed, lack of it) in MBO numbers was more pronounced.

I felt the CBI's graphic was relevant in principle to demonstrate that, although the number of MBO/MBI deals in the UK has remained reasonably static in the past six years, the value has fluctuated considerably - mirroring a point made in paragraph 3, concerning continental Europe's private equity deals.

I hope you feel that the rest of the article accurately conveyed opinion concerning an aspect of the current private equity market, to which we will no doubt be returning in the near future."

Please do not hesitate to contact me if you would like to comment further.

Kind regards

T

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

THAT is a PRICELESS piece of work.

Paddy's mum said...

just a brief word of advice, you might want to remove full names phone numbers and email addresses to depersonalise the people whose letters you have copied in case they google themselves and to stop your readers from being tempted to email them?

Jen said...

very funny I have to say. But- if I was Tim Donovan, Clare Gascoigne or even that silly man that complained about the graph, I would not be very happy with you. Why? Because you have published job titles, addresses and personal email addresses on your blog where anyone could find them. I found them just searching for random blogs on blogspot. Would suggest you edit the post (via the customise, edit post section) and delete these details before you get complaints.

Simoney said...

you are all very wise and clever! Thank you!!!! edited away xsx