In previous posts, I’ve pointed out that companies often allow their programmers’ childish language to be glimpsed by customers. These glimpses can distract, confuse and irritate the customers.
For example, when a user of Google’s Gmail has no messages in his Inbox, he sees this message:
No new mail! See what people are talking about on Google+.
When there are no messages in his Sent Mail box, he sees this message:
No sent messages! Send one now!
When there are no messages on file anywhere in his account, he sees this message:
You don’t have any mail! Our servers are feeling unloved.
These messages contrive excitement: although all three messages are routine, there is at least one exclamation point in each message.
The messages also express a childish anthropomorphism: the “servers are feeling unloved.”
And the messages demonstrate a childish narcissism: they imply that Google thinks the non-existent emotions of its non-sentient servers are somehow more important than the real emotions of irritation and disdain felt by real sentient beings: the customers reading those messages.
Here are grown-up, sober versions of the three messages.
There is no new mail.
There are no sent messages.
There is no mail on file anywhere in your account.
The Takeaway: Don’t risk distracting, confusing and irritating your readers – and damaging your credibility – by inserting childish language into routine communications. Google, with its colossal market position, can afford the risk; you and I cannot.