When you ask a person, “What type of wedding do you want to have?” the married-person-to-be will often respond by telling you what kind of wedding they don’t want to have. “We definitely don’t want to get married in Las Vegas!” As if you’d implied they did! Same with “What do you want to be when you grow up?” or “What kind of patio furniture do you like?” Although instructive in a roundabout sort of way, knowing that a person doesn’t want to be a ballet dancer or a marketing executive, or doesn’t want a bamboo or metal or cedar patio set tainting their deck doesn’t really tell you what they do want.
When it comes to email spam, right off, I think I know what most people want: none. Not any of it at all. My research results are derived from real-world trials of listening to people complain about spam. “I keep getting all these SPAM messages!” is one example. “How can I stop getting so many SPAM messages?!” is another.
Um… I don’t know?
But since we apparently must have spam email – because spam filters fail miserably and spammers won’t go away – then maybe we should just go ahead and work to improve the quality of spam writing. Because, to be honest, it almost always sucks real bad. I’m not talking about unwanted advertising from regular companies who at least pretend to harken from the planet earth; I’m talking about that bizarre variety of spam that is sent by mysterious people of fake royal descent or ESQs or CAPTs or other evil, lazy-ass freaks who not only refuse to work a day in their lives, but also prey on innocent souls (who will do anything to get their mitts on some free millions of USDs) and who WORST OF ALL send missives that are poorly written, boring and stupid. If you’re going to try to scam me, can you at least be entertaining? I know Americans will watch anything on TV rather than crack a book, but give us some credit. We know fake ESQs when we see them. So I’m here to help.
Spam Writing 101
The first thing you need to know when writing this stuff is that the term “spam” originates from a Monty Python sketch in which Spam (the funky meat) is featured. It’s pretty funny, so please check it out before you type another word. But don’t forget to return! Disclaimer: If you are one of the seemingly thousands (millions?) of foreigners writing spam from bizarro-land, you might not understand the subtle British humor of this skit, but give it a try! It’s well worth it. And also, Wikipedia, the go-to source of all knowledge, has confirmed the origin of the term “spam” with the full backing of Merriam-Webster behind them. So doubt no more!
Now let us get to the meat of the lesson, so to speak. First, the syllabus for Spam Writing 101:
- Don’t be stupid.
- Don’t address me as “Dear.”
- Don’t mention millions of dollars, or trunks, or me doing anything “on your behalf.”
(You’ll notice the syllabus is a great example of the aforementioned technique of delineating things I don’t want… See paragraph 1.)
Great. Let’s begin.
- Don’t be stupid.
I am sorry to encroach into your privacy in this manner, I found you listed in the Trade Center Chambers of Commerce directory here in Iraq,I find it pleasurable to offer you my partnership in business.I only pray at this time that your address is still valid. I want to solicit your attention to receive money on my behalf.
- Now, right off the bat, the writer crossed an invisible line of etiquette with the “Dear.” Not in his dreams.
- A person doesn’t encroach into my privacy, they encroach on my privacy. They better not be encroaching into anything, if you know what I’m sayin’!
- I think I’d know if I’m listed in the Trade Center Chambers of Commerce directory in Iraq, or in any other war-torn country. The writer should have given it some thought: what are the odds that I am listed there?
- Pleasurable? Really?
- “I only pray…” This is a turn-off to Christians, Muslims, Atheists or whatevers. Most people, even if prone to prayer, don’t pray about valid addresses.
So the writer is not off to a good start here, giving their potential victim several reasons to grow suspicious. It doesn’t bode well for the rest of the email:
I am CAPT PERRY MICHEAL, an officer in the US Army, and also a West Point Graduate presently serving in the Military with the 82nd Air Borne Division Peace keeping force in Baghdad, Iraq.
The spelling of “Micheal” may indicate that the writer might be stupid, thereby breaking Rule #1 (above). But “Michael” is not the only way to spell “MIchael”, as we all know, and as was pointed out by these sharp contributors to the Urban Dictionary:
Micheal is truly the man’s man. A truly well rounded individual capable of drinking large amount of alcohol, loving women roughly(and tenderly), know massive amounts of knowledge, and is talents at many, many things.
Just so’s you don’t doubt it, here’s more:
Micheal’s do have beautiful strong bodies that will make the girls melt. They are best matched up to Jennifer’s or Amanda’s.
“Micheal’s” demystified at last!
But it gets better! Compare those gems to the following responses received by a frustrated “Michael” who sought the advice of random visitors to “Ask Metafilter” (whatever that is) when he asked, “Why does everyone spell Michael wrong?” Am I just deluded and the ‘micheal’ spelling is more common than I think, or do people just not know how to spell?
Good question, Micheal. Too bad the world is heavily populated by dimwits, and they hang out at sites like Ask Metafilter. Because here are some of the answers you got:
…it’s just more natural to write “ea” than “ae.” My husband’s name is Michael, and when we were first dating I had to consciously spell it out. [Wow. That must have been hard for you.]
and it’s not a diphthong, I’m an idiot, I just mean vowel combinations. [No you’re NOT!]
“ae” is a pretty low-frequency bigram, compared with “ea”; the stark contrast is probably enough to kick in for “Micheal” if you haven’t learned the proper spelling dead-rote. [Stark contrast? Dead-rote? Am I missing something?]
The interesting thing is that you wouldn’t normally misspell a word pronounced that way as “Micheal” since it’s not an eee sound. But because people “know” there’s an ‘a’ in there, they include it. [All’s I “know” is, I’m fascinated by this explanation!]
A lot of people don’t know how to spell anything correctly, much less the word Michael. It’s not just your name. [Right on, sister!]
Checking google, which is a bad but easy method, there are 265 million hits for “ea”, as against 152 million for “ae”. Searching pages in English only, it’s 62 million pages for “ea”, 38.5 million pages for “ae”. [That’s a relief. But let’s hear it for “bad but easy” methods!]
People don’t often misspell Michael with just a single vowel in the second vowel spot, though – right? (eg you don’t see “Michel” a lot) So they know there are two, and they know which ones, they just can’t remember which order they go in. [And who can blame them?]
Generally, English spellers have a lot of trouble with all of the two-vowel combinations, though. “Weird” is often misspelled, for example.
Those pesky English spellers. They are weird, for sure! But the winner is:
It’s a weird-ass vowel combo, like everyone else said. I can’t spell it without actually saying (if only in my inner voice) “mai … kay … ehl”, and it’s my middle name. Which, granted, I don’t use all that often, but imagine how little someone who doesn’t even have it as a middle name runs into it.
Imagine! Let’s all count our blessings that we don’t run into “Michaels” more often (shudder!).
However, look at the time! I digress on the stupidity of urban and other Americans. We’re supposed to be focusing on the stupidity of foreign spam writers… let’s get back to our email:
I am on the move to Afghanistan from Iraq as the last batch just left,and i really need your help in assisting me with the safe keeping of two military trunk boxes which has just arrived the United Kingdom from the Iraq. I hope you can be trusted? Kindly view for your records: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/7444083.stm .
- Oh, wow! You’re on the move! And part of a batch of something!
- “Boxes” means more than one = plural.
- I hope you can be trusted, too?
I have to say, the BBC link is what convinced me 100% that this person was legit. Because the BBC is like the God or Goddess of trusted information. So sign me up! I would normally never click a link in a spam email (spoiler alert, Spammers!), but since it was the BBC’s website, I did, and lo and behold, it proved everything:
BBC uncovers lost Iraq billions[!] [emphasis added]
So, of course, I will now do whatever this person tells me to, even though the article was dated 10 June 2008 and it’s now 2013. Whatever. I’m sure those billions are still lost, except for the ones the writer has squirreled away in two trunk boxes which HAS just arrived in the UK! Too bad I live in Massachusetts, otherwise I could drive right over.
If you can be trusted , I will explain further when i get a response from you. Nevertheless, reconfirm the following to me as follows and contact me immediately on my private email: firstname.lastname@example.org
4.Copy of drivers license:
God Bless America. CAPT PERRY MICHEAL, USA Army
I’m so ready to reconfirm the following as follows to CAPT PERRY from the USA Army! He has certainly won me over with his reassuring slogans! All I have to do is fill in the blanks and I’m rich, rich, rich!!
- Billions were lost in 2008.
- The writer attended West Point, but now is “on the move.”
- The Trade Center Chambers of Commerce directory is basically his bible.
- He has some money in a couple of trunk boxes that he just sent to the UK.
- He needs me to drive from Massachusetts to the UK, but only if I can be trusted.
- He will explain further, although, God knows, he’s been more than clear.
- He should think about dating someone named Jennifer or Amanda.
- He secretly wishes to encroach into their privacy!
Well, that about wraps it up for today. I hope you have learned something.
My mom used to serve Spam on toast with mayonnaise, and although I know it’s supposed to be gross, I kind of remember liking it. Maybe I can’t be trusted after all!