I’ve come back from my summer holidays to a smaller amount of emails than I would have expected. You’ll note how I have cleverly avoided the issue of should it have been fewer emails or less emails. I always get myself in a knot with this one as do so many other people. Steve comes to mind every time I get there as it is a particular bug bear of his. Mine is using like when you should have used such as but we are getting off track.
In my heyday I might have received between one and two hundred emails a day and so after a break of ten working days – well you can do the maths. I have been pleased with myself as I haven’t touched my work email at all while I have been off and was dreading what I would come back to yet the number I have actually received was about half the total I could have expected.
Is this a good thing or a bad thing? Possibly but perhaps the key here is not to get too worked up by numbers. Should I be measuring my worth to an organisation in the amount of correspondence that I receive? Is my role to get through a quantity of work or to be part of an organisation that delivers benefit? Rhetorical questions indeed.
I have put a huge amount of effort into controlling the amount of email I get and so I shouldn’t be surprised that the amount may have fallen, after all there are so many possible reasons why this might be so.
Firstly, it could be that many other people are on holiday and so are not sending email to me. Secondly it could be that my team are aware that I am away and are more than capable of dealing with the stuff that crops up. Thirdly everyone may be storing it up ready to send it to me when I get back. Fourthly, email as a medium may be on the wane and numbers are naturally falling. Fifthly, there is a possibility that my relevance at work is declining and people no longer see it as necessary to include me in their thoughts.
Who can tell but at least I managed to catch up pretty quickly.
As an aside, I checked up on the fewer vs less controversy and the rule is that fewer should be used for countable nouns and concepts and less should be used for single or combined nouns. Fewer biscuits, less cake, less than 50 buns. Apparently though it may all come down to style. I got this from Wikipedia so it must be true:
The Cambridge Guide to English Usage notes that the “pressure to substitute fewer for less seems to have developed out of all proportion to the ambiguity it may provide in noun phrases like less promising results”. It describes conformance with this pressure as a shibboleth and the choice “between the more formal fewer and the more spontaneous less” as a stylistic choice.