08 October 2014

The Scam Letter: Why I Love Bad Writing

It is with great joy and inaudible fanfare that I share with you the scam letter I received recently.

Did I say 'letter'?  I meant "OFFICIAL LETTER."

May I direct your attention, not to the scam, but to the writing.  Blissfully, deliciously-bungled writing: the kind that hooks you from the salutation:

"Dear Tennant"

From there, it just gets better: (italics are mine)

"...I work for one of the financial institutions here in the United Kingdom"

One of them.  Like his workplace is a state secret.   Fair enough: I once worked for some of the radio stations.

Or is it a game?  "Guess which one, and win £150!"  Or perhaps it's more in the line of "If I told you, I'd have to ..." so on and so forth.

Pins & needles.

Do yourself a favour- read his next sentence out loud:  it follows the author's apology for the unsolicited letter.  I mean it.  Out loud.  You won't regret it:

"I knew that this is certainly not a predictable way of approaching to foster a relationship of trust, but because of the circumstances and urgency surrounding this claim."

Allow me:

Wha- ?

Moving on. Heeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeere's the pitch:

Seems poor Adam has been charged to find an heir to the estate of "business magnate" David Tennant, and, finding none, looks to me, a randomly-chosen namesake.  Brace yourself for the life-changing reveal:

"I know you might not in any way related to him,"

'be'.  He forgot 'be'.  But I'm not about to let a lousy state-of-being verb stand between me an 4.3 million clams.

"but having the same last name with him and coming from the same country with him, all the modalities I have in place I can guarantee that if you follow my instructions, the fund would be released to you legally."

Hot spit!  I'm rich.

Reading on: there is no risk.  Nay, "There is no atom of risk..."  Golly, a moment ago I was just "Tennant."  A mere five paragraphs later our relationship is approaching the sub-atomic level: an intimacy hitherto reserved for the breathtaking Mrs. Tennant.

A misplaced word here, a stumbling phrase there, then the big finish:
Disappointingly, 246 Upper Street is a Financial Institution

"This letter was mailed out to you when I was in Canada for business meetings."

Mr. Westwood mustn't have anticipated the 21st Century technology enabling a recipient to check investigate his story. Starting with his address.

In an unfortunate lapse into credibility, Mr. Westwood's address reveals- not a seedy back alley or re-purposed cargo container- but an actual financial institution.  Nationwide, of 246 Upper Street, London, is an established banking co-op.

That one faux pas notwithstanding, the letter is a masterpiece of non-misdirection.  It has a place of honour in my "Funny Stuff" file.

Bad writing is underrated.  To those language snobs who wail and gnash teeth over the demise of our language.  To them I offer a hearty:  Tthththththththththththththththwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwp!

I stand, in spirit, shoulder to shoulder with those who wax Christmastime-giddy at the annual release of the Bulwer-Lyton Prize* for 'Worst Opening Sentence'.  A contest of deliberately-crafted so-bad-it's-good writing by smart, highly-inventive people.

Seen another way: a scam letter built on convincing, elegant, believable prose isn't so damned funny.

My new benefactor, Adam Westwood, offered no such disappointment.  He has no idea how much he brightened my day.

I'm resisting the urge to send him something.

* * * * * * * *

*BONUS MATERIAL!  Here's the "winner" of the 2014 Bulwer-Lytton Prize, by my new hero, Betsy Dorfman, of Brainbridge Island, WA.:

"When the dead moose floated into view the famished crew cheered – this had to mean land! – but Captain Walgrove, flinty-eyed and clear headed thanks to the starvation cleanse in progress, gave fateful orders to remain on the original course and await the appearance of a second and confirming moose."
I'm weak.

1 comment:

  1. Haha...I too laughed when I received the same letter today!! It is funny how some people think they are so smart!!!