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A Man of Few Words - by Swan Morrison


I received a reply this morning from the manufacturers of the word-processing software I had hitherto installed on my computer.

‘Dear Mr Swin Moreson,

I write in response to your recent hand-written letter of complaint concerning the automated functions of your word-processing software.

You correctly point out that the spelling and grammar checkers change text automatically and cannot be overridden or amended by the user. You believe that this severely limits the possibility of creative writing. Due to modern teaching techniques, standards of English are declining. Most children are leaving primary school with neither the ability to reproduce, nor even recognise, the word ‘illiterate’. We believe, therefore, that the benefits of enforced correction within our product significantly outweigh any minor disadvantages.

You complain that the correspondence formatter corrected your favourite hymn to a slightly unusual form, namely:

‘Dear Lord,

And father of Mankind. . . . . . . .

Yours sincerely. . .’

The increase in the quality of letter layout, nation-wide, has, however, been marked.

Of particular concern to you was the humour checker. You described yourself as ‘a writer of humourous stories’ and objected to the way our product had rewritten your work such that it that bore no resemblance to the original. We are surprised at this complaint as we would have expected gratitude. Very extensive corrections can only indicate one thing. Difficult though it may be for you to accept, Mr Moreson, the inevitable conclusion is that your work is simply not funny.

You enquired whether our product can be uninstalled from your computer. It cannot, and there is no reason why it should be. It is the only word-processor you will ever, or could ever, need. Please note that its defence functions will cause irreparable damage to your hardware should you attempt to remove it.

You further objected to the way our product mails itself to everyone in your address book and then installs itself on their computers, deleting their existing word-processor. In addition, you found it unsatisfactory that it then extracts the users’ credit card details from their machines and purchases itself online. This once again demonstrates our commitment to simplify matters for our customers and to ensure that everyone has the best product available.

We consider your negative comments about our product to be totally groundless. This also explains why you were unsuccessful in using our software to type your complaint.

We do not expect to hear from you again.

Yours sincerely,

Complaints Response Sub-routine 4.’

I was beginning to despair when I noticed further writing in pencil on the back of the letter. It was a note from the person who had been trying to reply to my complaint. He explained that the software had not allowed him to respond as he had wished and, indeed, had fired him. Before he went, however, he had written for me instructions on how to remove the software from my machine without damage, and how to prevent reinfection.

It is with some relief, therefore, that I can now type this story.