March 12th, 2008


We Have Another "Winner"

Dr. Phil Gets Letters

Coming back from Spring Break, I found that there was Yet Another letter in my office mailbox with the full mailing address hand-printed in laborious detail on a white business envelope. Yup, it's another letter carefully sent to this Dr. Phil but really for that Other Dr. Phil.

This one is an invite to a Middle School function. On April 1st. Okay, who screens these things? (grin) More worrisome is that they must be teaching only a shadow of proper business letter skills in schools anymore. (sigh)

The Nits

While the letter is typed, the envelope is handwritten. Doesn't someone at the school know how to type or print an envelope? And the envelope addressing wasn't proofread. Dr. Philip Edward Kaldon from the letter becomes Dr. Phil Edward Kaklon in hand-printing. Who's he?

There's an errant space in the addressing on the letter -- isn't it obvious that one line of the address isn't left justified? And "physics" isn't capitalized in Department of Physics.

The letter is not signed. It ends with Sincerely and the name typed out.


They pick a cause that they would last there whole life researching on even though w will only be doing this project for 2 months.

Am I being a bastard here? I think not. This was a real teaching moment which got mangled, starting with the thought that either (a) a part-time Physics teacher in West Michigan would want to go to an event in Redondo Beach CA or (b) that students are allowed unsupervised trolling of the Internets to get and address and actually send a letter to the Wrong Person, under the assumption that this was intended for Dr. Phil McGraw As Seen On TV, and ending with the concept that (c) care in formatting and proofreading is both proper and respectful. Or (d) the teacher is unable to see that (a), (b) and/or (c) are a problem.

When I was in the Eighth Grade I was writing articles for and editing a newsletter. Now I'm a geek and not necessarily a good example for the average student. But I have issues here.

The Dilemma

The student who wrote the letter included the e-mail address of the teacher. I am tempted to write to the teacher. Or send a link to this blog entry. Would that make me a bastard? Or would it be a professional courtesy? I don't want to trash the students' event, mind you, but just point out that there are ways to do things in the Real World.

Or am I supposed to be impressed by this student's initiative to have grabbed anything off the web and slap together a letter, so I can sit back and say Aw, how cute? Because in a way this is about the same problem as many young/new writers fail to deal with in sending submissions to editors without regard to proper business etiquette and standard manuscript formatting. Appearances and professionalism DO matter. Think of how impressive the letter would be without the errors. Think even more about how impressive the letter would've been if it had been addressed to the right person in the first place.

Because ultimately the letter failed in its mission -- because the Dr. Phil from TV isn't going to see this letter. Of that I am certain.

Dr. Phil
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