IN response to my column the other Saturday on the need to avoid using the officious and bureaucratic “regards” phrases (tinyurl.com/nxktrj4), a reader who identified himself simply as CB made this very interesting comment:
“While you’re at it, Mr. Carillo, I think you should also admonish companies to stop using ‘is in need of’ when writing help wanted ads/announcements for job openings. Why can’t they just say ‘need/s”? It’s to the point, and much better at conveying urgency than the clumsy ‘is in need of.’”
Here’s my reply to CB:
You are asking me a grammar question that had also crossed my mind several times over the years but never bothered to articulate, much less to put down in writing and answer. Why, indeed, do many companies that advertise job openings for, say, sales clerks and merchandizers use the tagline “We are in need of sales clerks and merchandizers” instead of the more succinct “We need sales clerks and merchandizers”?
I definitely agree with you that using the active verb “need” for such taglines is direct to the point and much better at conveying urgency, but I don’t think we can consider using the verb phrase “is in need of” clumsy and, by implication, less suitable for the purpose. The two taglines actually mean the same thing, and aside from their word-counts, I think the only valid distinction that we can make between them is that they differ in language register, or the kind of language used for a particular purpose or in a particular communication setting.
Without question, the more traditional and common business usage is “We are in need of sales clerks and merchandisers.” Here, we have a passive-voice sentence denoting a state of need to fill up those positions—a statement that clearly deems it more important to draw the attention of the reader to that need rather than to the needful entity. On the other hand, the more concise “We need sales clerks and merchandisers” is an active-voice sentence that draws attention to the subject directly and forcefully stating its need to fill up those positions. Such statement is much more concise, of course, but it has an undertone of urgency that, even if warranted, might be imprudent for the company to admit or even publicly hint at from the hiring standpoint.
For this reason, CB, I must say for the record that I’m extremely hesitant to admonish companies from using the “We are in need of…” tagline in their job wanted ads. It’s a perfectly legitimate way of expressing their need, and we would be unduly intruding on that prerogative to to ask them to express their want ads only in the more direct and urgent way that you suggested.
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I was recently asked this other interesting language question by Justin Aragones, a member of Jose Carillo’s English Forum:
“Is the use of ‘Yours in Christ’ as complimentary close appropriate in memos and other business letters particularly inside a Catholic school?”
Here’s my reply to Justin Aragones:
Among devout Roman Catholics or Christians, it’s perfectly natural and acceptable to use “Yours in Christ” as a complimentary close in memos and letters to one another—and all the more so within the premises of a Catholic school or in its interoffice communication. However, I think that template should be used only by, for, and between fellow believers. It would be inappropriate—even tactless and imprudent—to use “Yours in Christ” in letters addressed to audiences that conceivably might consist not only of Roman Catholics, Christians, and Muslims but also of believers in other religious faiths, not to mention atheists and agnostics. In such cases, it would be wise and prudent to stick to generic nonreligious and professional complimentary closes like “Yours truly,” “Sincerely yours,” and “With my best regards.”
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