Monday, October 1, 2007

Rocking the Passive Voice XVIII

It's been too long, hasn't it? Take a look at this PFO:
We regret to inform you, however, that you did not make our list of finalists.

This sentence was constructed with stunning artfulness. It's as passive as any sentence with the passive voice. (Who's decision was it not to put me on the finalist list? Who's responsible for telling me to fuck off?) And yet the sentence doesn't actually use the passive voice. This could be a revolution in PFO style.

But then the letter goes and blows all that painstakingly crafted passivity, when it says,

We. . . . hope that our decision will not discourage you as you continue on in the job market process.

Their decision? You mean, it didn't just happen? How'd they let that tiny ray of honesty find it's way out of the letter?

Oh, and for the record, this PFO didn't discourage me at all. I mean, the other 85 pushed me into a months-long depression, but this one made me feel like a million fucking bucks.


Himself said...

This is of course worse than the passive voice, because it uses the active voice, with you as the subject, i.e. we didn't reject you; you failed.

Fishbone McGonigle said...

My favorite rejection letter went something like this:

"Thank you for your interest in the position of Assistant Professor of Whatever It Is You Do here at Basketball State University.

Our job search was very successful, and we invited three candidates to our campus for further interviews.

We wish you luck in your future endeavors."

Yeah, it was a rejection, but even so I had to admire the artfulness of it.

Anonymous said...

My favorite rejection letter so far did not mention that they were rejecting me. The only indication is buried in the second paragraph: "it is important not to consider this outcome a negative judgment of your work." Since the outcome is not mentioned anywhere in the letter, it is literally nonsense.

Anonymous said...

i thought i would share a recent rejection of a submission of mine to a conference which rocks the passive voice pretty nicely (i know it's not a job app rejection, and if this is annoying, then i apologize...):

"Dear Applicants, Thankyou [sic] for your applications to speak at MindGrad 2007. Unfortunately, due to the large number of high quality submissions, you have not been successful. We would still be delighted if you attended the conference..."

a brief analysis: so, i'm one of many applicants. and you are grateful for applications. but, because of these large numbers of "high-quality" applications, i've objectively failed to be successful. wait, maybe i missed something... what was the reason for my lack of success? was it that the paper i wrote was not high-quality or that it was among those high-quality papers but there were two many to accept? or should i just guess?

and, the last sentence is nice too: just because we rejected your paper doesn't mean that you cannot come. your presence would give us 'delight.' how do you know that it would? maybe i would register to attend the conference and comment on every paper that mine was better...