Very Annoyed

It’s the first day of the semester, and already somebody managed to annoy me beyond what I can express. And I’m not even at work today because I teach on Tuesdays and Thursdays this semester.

This is what happened: I worked hard on a project for people from another department. Finished it well ahead of time and sent it in. Today, I received the following response (I edited out some details but the format is preserved faithfully):

“I’ve looked at her project. . . It’s hard to tell right now. . . Of course, if I could look at the text, maybe then. . . As it is, I’m not sure I could say anything. . . It might have an even wider use than we anticipated. . . Or it could be of no use at all. . . One can’t say anything at this point. . . Maybe she can address these concerns and then. . . Wondered what made her think about doing this project. . .”

That’s the response I got, folks. The incomplete sentences, the discussion of me in the third person without once mentioning my name, the “. . .” at the end of EVERY single sentence, the weird act of faking forgetfulness of the fact that it was their direct request that made me do this project.

And now guess what discipline the professor who wrote this idiotic message teaches.

Law. This is a scholar of jurisprudence.

I’m now supposed to “address the concerns”. My main concern about these concerns is that the person who wrote this message is a babbling fool who somehow ended up being hired at my school.

Is this some sort of a code used by legal scholars where they use ellipsis marks almost a dozen times within a short professional email? I’m not used to responding to messages written in this format. I find it insulting. I deserve to be addressed in complete sentences by my colleagues.

Oh, and the person who wrote this email? She is at least 20 years older than I am.

27 thoughts on “Very Annoyed”

  1. I think the ellipsis is similar to trailing off at the end of a spoken sentence when you assume the other person will somehow impute the desired phrase for you. It’s the kind of thing I would do when speaking Spanish, and I can’t come up with the right words to complete any of my thoughts.

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      1. The ellipses plus talking about you in the 3rd person suggests that she is lazily quoting a longer email about you written by someone else…not that they makes any more sense….especially in a professional email… 🙂

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      2. You could write back, politely mentioning that the format confuses you and brings up your concern that you make have missed some important earlier communications. Thanking her very much, you look forward to the collaboration, etc etc. And cc it to at least one other person. This might put her on notice to communicate a little more respectfully.

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  2. I wonder whether that “scholar of jurisprudence” ever wrote (I mean, like, you know, done ever writed) a brief that somehow got filed with a court? If so, it would have been very embarrassing to watch the subsequent oral argument if, despite the incompetence of the brief, the case were heard.

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  3. Let me just clarify, the person writing the email says “Of course, if I could look at the text, maybe then. . . As it is, I’m not sure I could say anything. . .” as in, she looked at it, but she hasn’t read it?

    That is non-communication in fine form!

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  4. Did she think she was responding to someone else and hit “reply all” by mistake? That might explain why she addressed you in the third person. Nothing explains those incomplete sentences and ellipses, though. What I don’t understand about that writing style is that it’s easier to write in complete sentences! At least it is for me.

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    1. The funny thing is that there was no greeting and no real ending to the message. It was exactly as I quoted (without some specific details I deleted). I persecuted my students with demands they don;t send this kind of emails in an academic setting, and here is a TENURED professor doing this. I’m shocked.

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  5. “Maybe I’d never see him again… maybe he’d gone for good… swallowed up, body and soul, in the kind of stories you hear about… Ah, it’s an awful thing… and being young doesn’t help any… when you notice for the first time… the way you lose people as you go along … the buddies you’ll never see again… never again… when you notice that they’ve disappeared like dreams… that it’s all over… finished… that you too will get lost someday… a long way off but inevitably… in the awful torrent of things and people… of the days and shapes… that pass… that never stop…”
    ― Louis-Ferdinand Céline, Death on the Installment Plan

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  6. I wouldn’t say plagarism outside this blog. It’ll lead right back here with a google search.

    Generally, email is terrible medium for communication. My response to such examples as yours is universally as follows.

    “Call me,”

    I also advised my subordinates (back when I did the corporate gig) to never email a client or colleague: “Walk down the hall to their office or pick up the phone and call.” People who repeatedly ignored this advice were berated as cowards. That last might seem harsh, except I have a social anxiety disorder, so whining did them no good with me.

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  7. “I’ve looked at her project. . . It’s hard to tell right now. . . Of course, if I could look at the text, maybe then. . . As it is, I’m not sure I could say anything. . . It might have an even wider use than we anticipated. . . Or it could be of no use at all. . . One can’t say anything at this point. . . Maybe she can address these concerns and then. . . Wondered what made her think about doing this project. . .”
    Jeez. The only time I’ve actually seen stuff like that is in video games or when someone is quoting another source and are just skipping around to different portions of the same section.

    Weird.

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      1. Torn apart by childbirth

        For a few women in the UK, giving birth results in traumatic, life-changing injuries

        Joanna Moorhead · guardian.co.uk

        ————-
        Mel had her first baby two years ago. It was a textbook pregnancy, and today her son is a happy, healthy toddler. But for Mel, the baby’s delivery changed everything. She is doubly incontinent; sex is difficult and painful; she rarely goes out socially, and she has only been able to return to work in the last two months.

        Her baby’s difficult delivery caused an obstetric fistula – a fissure, or hole, between her rectal and vaginal passages. She also suffered nerve damage and her brain no longer registers the signals when she needs to urinate or empty her bowels: in the long term she may need a colostomy.

        This week, doctors from around the world gathered in Dakar for the annual conference of the International Society of Obstetric Fistula Surgeons. Their discussions centred on the problem of fistula in the developing world, where it is a common complication of childbirth. In the UK, the number of women affected is very small, but the effect on their lives is colossal.

        Mel says that, were it not for the fact that her workplace is semi-medical, she probably would not have been able to return to her job. “I’m lucky because the people I work with understand incontinence, and that helps,” she says. “But it’s absolutely life-changing: I have to get up at 5.30am every day because I need to eat a meal and then do a colonic irrigation before I can leave the house. I can’t eat all day or I’d have an accident; I wear pads, but inevitably there are times when they leak. It’s debilitating and demeaning; it undermines your confidence, and it makes you wonder why you ended up in this situation.”

        Mel isn’t alone: Vikki Dutton, who lives in Essex and has three children aged eight, five and one, had a fourth- degree tear when she gave birth to her first child. “For a few hours after the birth, I had one hole instead of two. I spent two hours in surgery, and left hospital with more than 100 stitches. It was incredibly, unbelievably painful – like getting a paper cut in the most intimate part of your body, only 1,000 times worse.”

        And there are more stories like these – lots more. Two years ago a poster called Cyee started a thread on “birth injuries” on Mumsnet while she was lying in bed after surgical repair for a fistula. More than 1,395 posts have since been added. Under the veil of anonymity that web-chat allows, women pour out the pain, and tragedies, that they have hitherto suffered in silence: some tell how they can’t bear to be touched, let alone have sex, a year and more on from the birth. Yet more tell of how they wouldn’t – couldn’t – contemplate a second child, so terrible was the physical fallout from the first.

        Some of the women posting feel mothers-to-be need more information about birth injuries and how to avoid them; others say it is unfair to scare pregnant women, because injuries of the severity they are suffering are very rare. It is hard to pin down statistics, because no one collates them centrally: but Michelle Thornton, consultant colorectal surgeon for NHS Lanarkshire, says third- and fourth-degree tears happen in 3% of vaginal deliveries in countries such as the UK.

        Not all these, of course, cause permanent or long-term damage: but some do, and what the Mumsnet posters agree on is that suffering a birth injury is a peculiarly lonely experience: outside of cyberspace, it’s rarely mentioned. “It’s hardly the sort of thing you can discuss at an antenatal coffee morning,” says Mel. “And in any case, I couldn’t get out of the house to go to an antenatal coffee morning.”

        Many women suffer in silence – often for years. “I’ve met women in their 50s at hospital appointments who are now seeking help for problems relating to childbirth decades ago,” reports Cyee on Mumsnet. “Some have lived with faecal incontinence all that time and done nothing because they thought they were freaks and because of the stigma.”

        Maureen Treadwell at the Birth Trauma Association agrees: each week, she says, her organisation hears from women who haven’t known where to turn for advice before. “It’s a totally hidden problem, and it affects women’s lives in devastating ways,” she says. “Many of the women who contact us have rectal as well as urinary incontinence, and they can’t have sex . . . for some, their relationship totally breaks down as a result of it all. Women tell us it makes them feel dirty, it wrecks their work, their home and their social life. And it’s a total taboo.”

        Since many birth injuries remain hidden, known only to the woman herself (Mel says that in the early months after her baby was born, she would sleep in the spare room rather than admit her incontinence to her husband, let alone tell a GP about it), it is impossible to know how common it is. Treadwell says there are now more clinics, and more services, for women with colorectal injuries, many of which emanate in childbirth. The Guardian recently reported that the NHS is increasing its specialist support services for women suffering from birth trauma following a surge in cases: and though birth trauma encompasses problems other than birth injuries, the two are often related. Guy Foster, a solicitor at Irwin Mitchell who specialises in obstetric medical negligence cases, says more women are contacting lawyers – although whether that is because more injuries are occurring, or there is just more awareness of them, is unclear.

        Thornton is convinced the incidence is far higher than is generally thought. “One study found that between 25 and 40% of patients will have a birth injury of some kind if you actually look for it,” she says. “It’s much more widespread than anyone believes.”

        Her bugbear, she says, is that women aren’t being told there are risks to vaginal delivery just as there are risks to caesarean delivery. “We know that certain circumstances make birth injury more likely,” she says. “Big babies are a definite risk factor; a rapid second stage of labour is a risk factor. Having torn in a previous delivery is a major risk factor; augmentation is a risk factor, and so too is a forceps delivery.”

        The problem, as she points out, is that by the time you get to needing a forceps delivery, the baby is too low down to opt for a section. This, she says, is why so many obstetricians opt for caesareans when giving birth themselves.

        Treadwell worries that the incidence of birth injuries is likely to rise. “Pregnant women are heavier than they used to be, which means that babies are heavier, and that means we’re likely to see more birth injuries. What’s more, pressure to keep the caesarean rate down means obstetricians might be less likely to intervene and suggest a section even when the baby is large, or when the labour isn’t progressing.” Both Mel and Vikki, along with many of the Mumsnet posters, believe that healthcare staff should have noticed that the delivery was looking difficult, and suggested a section. “In my case, the midwife was supervising a trainee next door, so she kept popping in and out. If she’d kept a closer eye on things, maybe she’d have noticed that delivering my 10lb 12oz baby wasn’t going well, and suggested a section instead,” says Vikki.

        On medical advice, she had her later babies by caesarean – and Mel has been told that, if she has a second child, she will need a surgical delivery. “If only they’d suggested that first time round,” she says. “I love my baby to bits – but never in a million years would I have imagined how his birth would leave me.”

        Comments on the Guardian

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      1. It’s true that in a few very rare cases giving birth vaginally can lead to terrible injuries. But it is also true that in very rare cases giving birth by C-section can lead to terrible injuries. On the one hand, I feel this article does a disservice to women by graphically describing the small minority of disasters caused by vaginal birth. On the other hand, all information is good information.

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  8. twicerandomly :
    It’s true that in a few very rare cases giving birth vaginally can lead to terrible injuries. But it is also true that in very rare cases giving birth by C-section can lead to terrible injuries. On the one hand, I feel this article does a disservice to women by graphically describing the small minority of disasters caused by vaginal birth. On the other hand, all information is good information.

    This isn’t about the dangers of any specific method of delivery, I believe, as much as it is about the general drive to manipulate women out of getting C-sections. I find this trend to be very insulting to women. My sister was bullied on her way to the delivery room by two busybodies who’d never seen her before but still believed they knew better than she and her doctor that they knew best which method of delivery she had to choose.

    I find this appalling. Women are valid human beings who should be trusted to make their own choices as to how to deliver a child. It doesn’t matter whether women are bullied into vaginal birth or C-section. It’s appalling when it happen either way.

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  9. Is it possible that finally the tide is turning on the bizarre “all natural all the time” movement?

    I thought you were a card-carrying member of that movement?

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