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Get to the Point

If You Are Reading This … Oh, Wait, You Are!

By Theda C. Snyder

Perhaps the most ridiculous construct I see and hear regularly is the conditional introductory phrase that prefaces content in documents with, “If you are reading this,” or that starts voicemail greetings with, “If you are hearing this message.”

Superfluity. Of course, I’m reading or listening. That’s how I’m getting this message. The phrase is completely unnecessary. Why question the obvious?

Competence. Wondering whether the reader or listener is reading or listening to content the reader or listener by definition is already receiving calls into question the communicator’s reasoning skills. Using this phrase is illogical. In a document, it is quite simply bad writing.

Better writing. What are you really trying to say? Perhaps you mean to convey an assumption about the reader: “Subscribers to [this publication] are already familiar with [basic subject matter.]” So what? Trying to flatter the reader comes across as bloviating. Your writing will be more concise by deleting the phrase entirely.

Better voicemail. Your voicemail greeting leaves an impression. Consider it a marketing opportunity. Wasting callers’ time asking if they did in fact call may alienate some. If they hang up, you’ll never know.

Change your voicemail greeting on the office system and on your mobile phone today. Send a message to everyone on staff to do the same. (You could forward this post.) Keep greetings short and to the point:

“This is the voicemail of Lana Lawyer. Kindly leave your message at the tone including a call-back number.”

Do not state, “I am unavailable” or “I am either on the phone or away from my desk.” Nobody believes that line anyway. The only thing that matters is you didn’t take the call.

Stay Away from the Carnival 

Old-time carnival barkers announced, “If you are within the sound of my voice, you are eligible for this special offer.” Perhaps the gullible felt special. But this is no way for a lawyer or anyone in the firm to communicate.

Illustration ©

Categories: Communications Skills, Daily Dispatch, Get to the Point, Legal Writing
Originally published August 18, 2016
Last updated April 26, 2018
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Teddy Snyder Theda C. Snyder

Theda “Teddy” Snyder mediates civil disputes, workers’ compensation and insurance coverage cases, including COVID-19 related coverage disputes, in person or by video. Teddy has practiced in a variety of settings and frequently speaks and writes about settlements and the business of law. She was a Fellow of the College of Law Practice Management and is the author of four ABA books, including “Women Rainmakers’ Best Marketing Tips, 4th Edition” as well as “Personal Injury Case Evaluation” available on Based in Los Angeles, Teddy can be found at and on Twitter @SnyderMediation.

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