The Mercantile’s Guide to Style

Everybody knows that dangling modifiers and their ilk can be totally hilarious, but today we explore how these baubles of grammatical wrongheadedness can actually be made to work for you in the business world. Remember always The Mercantile’s Guide to Style’s watch words—“Deliberate Ambiguity!”—as you consider the following memo:

“On company time, I saw Stephens walking his dog in his pajamas yesterday. Hopefully, Stephens approached you for a raise. In reviewing last quarter’s numbers, can this be afforded? Clearly, Stephens is more of an asset to the company in slippers.”

The Regional Manager, who has recently transferred to the Midwest from the Pacific Region of Operations, has no idea who was doing the watching on company time, or whether it was Stephens or the dog wearing pajamas, or that Stephens’ dog is actually his trusty seeing-eye dog. Nor is it clear whether you, the speaker, hope Stephens asked for a raise, or whether Stephens was himself filled with hope. Advantage you! The third sentence presents a rhetorical question, leading the RM to assume that Stephens is totally overreaching, and it is unlikely that the RM has the slightest idea that through some complete fluke, the Midwest Region of Operations, counter to a two-year downward trend, posted a profit the previous quarter. Ok, well he probably does, but if he does, he also knows profits are totally in the abattoir. Stephens’ visual impairment and frequent telecommutes haven’t prevented him from being recognized as the hardest worker on the staff, winner of employee-of-the-month for the last consecutive thirteen months, but still, who ought to be wearing slippers, Stephens or the company? A properly informed management would frown on his firing. But with Stephens dating your ex-wife and being the subject of frequently overheard conversations about what a “great guy” he is, how Stephens ought to be promoted to your position, etc., clearly Stephens and his chick-magnet seeing-eye dog have got to go.   -Ed Scripsi

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Published in: on August 22, 2008 at 5:13 pm  Comments (2)  

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2 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Hi! I was surfing and found your blog post… nice! I love your blog. :) Cheers! Sandra. R.

  2. […] convention get you down.  Which brings me to my point: if these guys can spout off about style, so can any jerk with two fingers and a cardigan. With that I give you two words with the power to change the course of your career.  Dirty. […]


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