Thus ended most letters in the Indian Army. During my young officer days, I had asked a senior colleague as the need for ending all the official correspondence with such a line. He had said that it padded up the letter and the letter would look incomplete without such an epilogue. I never understood as to how the information could ever be kind to anyone and what was the need to send the letter in the first place in case no action was needed. Someone told me that it was to be specific as to what the person at the other end must do. If that person was really ignorant of what is to be done with the letter, I never understood as to how that person could be educated about it with that very clichéd line.
“The information asked for is attached herewith as Appendix to this letter”. This is another superfluous epilogue I found in many letters written in reply to a query requesting data or information. An appendix means an attachment and is never mailed in a separate envelop, it is always placed in the same envelop (herewith), and always with a covering letter (to this letter).
As a Brigade Major and as a Commanding Officer were the only two occasions when I could get the staff and subordinate officers to doing away with these epilogues. My reasoning was that it saved time, ink and paper (think of the number of trees that could have been saved). One clerk said that it had become an instinct and his fingers never stopped until he typed the epilogue. One clerk said the idea was great, but will only be in practice until you are around and the next officer taking over from you would insist on the epilogue and hence the reluctance.
LOL, OMG, FTW etc are commonly used abbreviations in the cyber world in the age digital communications and text messaging. These are understood well by everyone across the continents and have been evolved over a period of usage and it still continues to evolve. As young officers, we were given a book of abbreviations to be used in the Army called Appendix C. The introductory paragraph of the book said that use of abbreviations would reduce time and effort and would assist in assimilation and it would facilitate telegraphy (old analog methodology of transmitting text). We used to be summoned to the Adjutant’s office with the abbreviations book, to scan through every word in a document to be sent to the higher headquarters to ensure that any word that found a place in the abbreviations book had been abbreviated and in case the abbreviation used had been correctly used. In case of any errors, either the entire page was retyped or else the correcting fluid was to be used. You can imagine the amount of time spend on the task in place of the time it was meant to save.
When the entire world was using the word “fax” as an abbreviated form for facsimile (the current generation would not be aware of the origin of the word), the abbreviation book called it “fx”. Luckily recently it has been changed to “fax”. If you ask someone for a “lap”, it does not mean that you want to sit on their lap or rest your head on their lap, but it is understood that it is a request for their laptop computer.
There is an abbreviation “DHPP” and the very same Appendix C calls it as “Diesel High Power Point” in place of “Diesel High Pour Point”. It actually means that this type of diesel has a high pour point. The pour point of a liquid is the temperature at which it becomes semi solid and loses its flow characteristics. In diesel, the pour point is the temperature at which the paraffin in the fuel has crystallized to the point where the fuel gels and becomes resistant to flow. It is surely not a Power Point presentation the least.
World over uses left aligned format for all types of correspondence (all lines in the letter are aligned to the left). This facilitates easier reading on the hand held PDAs (Personal Digital Assistant) and cell (cellular) phones. The Indian government for its official correspondence still continues to have subject line centered and some parts offset to the right side, the Indian Army also continues with the age-old practice. You can imagine how someone using a PDA is to read such a letter and make sense of it.
We need to change with time and cater for all the developments taking place around us in all aspects of life and official correspondence is no different.