How to send email like a non-metaphorical boss

Originally published at:

Mike Judge nailed it years ago.


This is not a how-to. It’s a cut and paste from an interesting article, but there’s nothing about “how to send an email like a non-metaphorical boss” in there.

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My God! An inaccuracy in my BoingBoing?

You know what would be great? Feeding these to a Markov chain.


Sure it does. It’s a trivial application of Bayes’ theorem.


Observation: I’ve never actually been able to implement a baysian classifier on my own that produced sensible results without the help of smarter people than me.

But maybe I should try again with the BBS… :smile:

  • Great thanks are in order…
  • Great Thanksgiving Recipes
  • Great, thanks. Thanks a bunch.

This sort’a thing shivers you to the bone.

I know it’s meant to be funny but I’ve found myself actually struggling NOT to say this exact phrase to my staff. I’ve had to catch myself more than a few times.

It’s like the crap you say when you’re a parent that you swore you’d never say to your kids…like “when I was your age…”, etc.


I only verbally say it, with the exact cadence of Lumbergh.

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Yeah, but you’re doing it ironically. There’s no excuse for me other than the fact that I’m turning into Lumbergh.

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A Krieger/Lumbergh hybrid!?
You will be the Downfall of us all, man!!


Fortunately my team consists entirely of clones so compliance is high.


Don’t they have to work out all the locutionary, illocutionary and perlocutionaries?


3rd on the boss list, “You gave.”

3rd on the employee list, “I took.”

If you didn’t identify these phrases as coming from a workplace hierarchy, you could easily pass them off as “the most frequently used e-mail phrases”. I mean… “can you help” and “good one” don’t exactly signify a power structure.

Here’s the most common e-mail response I receive from my bosses: “ok”

Also, being super nit-picky here: it’s e-mail. Like x-ray and in-law.

To: Cory
Subject: your article
Great, thanks.

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It’s a mistake to extrapolate workplace generalities from one company’s emails. Enron, like most corporations, had its own culture with a dialect and prescribed manners of interaction that don’t necessarily carry over into other industries and companies. This graph would probably look a lot different with a corpus of email from Twitter or the Pentagon or Happy Mutants LLC.

I don’t see what the takeaway is from this.

For bosses not to check status or thank employees? For them to speak in Klingon or Esperanto, to thus avoid using the phrases a previous boss might’ve used? (Until all bosses start doing this and then inevitably moving on to cuneiform on wax tablets?)