Making deceit pay

Have you noticed an increase in deceitful mail in your mailbox? Daily we receive mail in envelopes bearing return addresses carefully designed to appear as if they are from an official government source, but on being opened, actually reveal a sales pitch for most anything, insurance, hearing aids, you name it.

More annoying, if that’s possible, are envelopes bearing messages that appear intent on embarrassing us. “PAST DUE” in bold red letters was stamped on one we received this week. That’s not all. The same envelope warns in ALL CAPS: “IMPORTANT BENEFIT INFORMATION TO BE OPENED SOLELY BY THE INDIVIDUAL NAMED BELOW: The upper left corner reveals a return address in Washington, DC. Inside, an urgent message from an outfit claiming a official-sounding name to preserve Medicare and Social Security. They want our money, of course.

Pleas for money dominates much of the mail filling our mailbox and yours, too, I suspect, some of them from legitimate charities we like to support, but any inclination to donate hits the brakes when the request is wrapped in deceit or worse, when it announces to the world in bold red letters that this is not the first such request and that we somehow are delinquent for not having responded sooner.

Another variety on this rising tide of deceitful mail is the friendly-looking envelope that appears to have been hand addressed with a pen, an effort by the sender to make it resemble a personal letter. Most of these lack a return address. Clearly, the sender doesn’t want its true identity discovered until we are forced to open the envelope and look inside.

The U.S. Postal Service has been losing money for several years. Here is a solution, one that would be cheered by millions of Americans. Raise the rates on junk mail. We might even add a surcharge for any mail whose packaging is clearly designed to deceive the addressee. This could yield millions. Maybe it could cut down on the number of deceivers.

Today’s word/phrase: the stammering pronoun. Like many grammatical sins, this is popular with sports announcers but certainly not limited to them. It’s the practice of stating a noun as the subject of a sentence, then following it immediately with a pronoun that represents it redundantly. Examples: The Eagles, they need to tighten their pass defense in the second half of this game. My sister, she ties up the bathroom for hours. This is wrong, wrong, wrong, based on a sensible grammar rule that was drilled into us in elementary school. When a noun is the subject of a sentence, never follow it with a pronoun representing that noun. Let the noun carry the sentence and drop that redundant pronoun.

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