Long Live 7th Grade English

Remember Mrs. Dribblenose, the craggy white-haired English teacher back in 7th grade who made you write compositions about really boring subjects such as, “Why Wheat Matters To Me,” then scribbled red ink all over your pages, correcting your sentence structure, spelling and grammar?

She’s the one who tried to drum into your head stuff like: don’t end sentences with prepositions; declension is the noun analog to conjugation; and, the complete predicate is everything in the sentence that the complete subject isn’t. (Huh?)

When you’re educated in the United States and Canada or, in fact, anywhere throughout the native English-speaking world, there is always a Mrs. Dribblenose. Thanks to her, the language as we speak it and write it is familiar.

Then along comes this:

“Dear Trusted Friend – This is to officially inform you that it has come to our notice, the Federal Bureau Investigation (FBI), that the sum of $8.3 Million U.S Dollars contained is here in the United State Of America in your name. That is why we have decided to contact you directly to acquire the proper verifications and proof from you to show that you are the rightful person to receive this fund, because the above mentioned amount is a huge amount of money, that is why we want to make sure that money you are about to receive is legal and we need to verify that you are not involved in any terrorist movement and money laundry. It has already been confirmed in your name, but funds are right now in our custody waiting to be released to you, we have verified and investigated that you are the right beneficiary to claim the funds, all we need from you is verification and proof due to the huge amount of money involved. As a matter of national security, we are to serve and to protect the UNITED STATES OF AMERICA.”

What’s wrong with that?

Simple. Whoever wrote such gibberish never had to face Mrs. Dribblenose. So how could this possibly be from someone working for the FBI?

Granted, not all email scammers are so outrageously illiterate. But that’s a genuine email, and it’s surprising how many scammers — pretending to be native English speakers — don’t seem to know the basic rules of English grammar.

Or, how to spell.

Or, that when you write a sentence which is too long, and contains all sorts of sub-clauses, even when those sub-clauses are supposed to be helping to make a point but fails because the sub-clauses don’t make any more sense than the rest of the letter, which means you wind up with a really badly written, run-on sentence—like this one—then something is radically wrong.

Common sense says that anytime you receive an emailed offer of free money from a perfect stranger—and that includes the FBI!—throw it away. Common sense also says that if there’s an attachment with an email from a perfect stranger, never open it.

Sadly, sometimes, in the face of greed, common sense can take a holiday.

So how’s this for a “golden rule”:

If your “English speaking” pen-pal is promising you instant wealth, inordinate fame, better sex, more hair or lasting friendship, and couldn’t pass Mrs. Dribblenose’s 7th Grade English Class… guaranteed, it’s a scam.