Meaningless Statements, Vague Gibberish, and Useless Qualifications

In my capacity as a person working in a technology field, I am occasionally the recipient of email messages from companies that want to sell their products and services. Reading these email messages often reminds me of a great passage in Isaac Asimov’s Foundation trilogy, indeed in the original “Foundation” story published in Astounding in May 1942. In the story, one of the characters records what a politician from the Empire says during a meeting, something a little discourteous. He then sends out the recording for symbolic logic analysis.

Lundin Crast said, “And where is the analysis?”
“That,” replied Hardin, “is the interesting thing. The analysis was the most difficult of the three by all odds. When Holk, after two days of steady work, succeeded in eliminating meaningless statements, vague gibberish, useless qualifications–in short all the goo and dribble–he found he had nothing left. Everything canceled out… Lord Dorwin, gentlemen, in five day of discussion didn’t say one damned thing, and said it so you never noticed.”

I get that I would be a target for these messages at work, but today I received a message to my personal email account that is a good representation of these kinds of messages. When it comes to my personal email, I feel it is free game for me to comment on. Here, then, is what it had to say:

Based on my research [your company] seems to be at the forefront of driving innovation across the federal/research space. As business grows, so does the need for resources to fuel IT missions responsible for advancing modernization efforts, cyber protections and awareness, large-scale cloud migrations, infrastructure, and IT support needs as government sprints toward the next iteration in the technical landscape… Would love to get some time next week to talk synergies to assure you stay ahead of your initiatives and achieve program success.

If Isaac Asimov had taken that paragraph whole, and inserted it into “Foundation” as an example of Lord Dorwin’s “goo and dribble” it would have been as meaningless in 1942 as it is in 2021. This is a classic example of trying too hard. When I got to the end the paragraph, I had absolutely no idea what it meant. All I noticed was a lot of tech jargon–goo and dribble.

I understand these companies are looking to sell products and services, but I don’t know how an email like this could do anything but turn off the reader. I’d be much more receptive to a “If you are interested in some ideas for improving [fill in the blank], call me at [phone number].”

I don’t know what it means to “talk synergies.”I had to look up “synergy” in Merriam-Webster: “combined actions or operations”. So apparently “talk synergies” means to talk about combined actions or operations. They would love to get some time next week to do this. I would love to get some time next week to spend with kids. Guess who is going to win that battle?

When I receive messages like these I have a little daydream that I play through my mind. I imagine I’ve written a fairly elaborate parser that looks at the incoming email and is able to detect meaningless statements, vague gibberish, and useless qualifications, much like the symbolic logic analysis that Holk provided in Asimov’s story. As soon as the parser detects this within the email message it sends a brief auto-reply quoting Strunk & White‘s Rule 17:

Omit needless words.

But I suspect Strunk & White is not as well-known as it once was, so the daydream collapses and I’m left clicking the DELETE icon.


  1. I get a dozen meaningless messages daily, and the delete button is the most often used key on the keyboard. What I find fascinating is that the senders really hope to spark interest in their product or message, and I can’t imagine anyone stupid enough to respond to their queries.

  2. I am in the same boat. I get so many of these and they always go in the trash. I rarely give them more than a glance and with security concerns, I never click any of the included links.

  3. I work in IT as well and that section in Foundation burns brightly in my memory from reading it as a kid.


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