Dear Correspondent

I regret to say that I have been unable to deliver your electronic mail to Mr Stafford. My employer has left with me strict instructions to run certain automated checks on the spelling, grammar and vulgarity of unsolicited messages, and I’m afraid it is due to the result of these checks that I am unable to deliver yours.

Mr Stafford has adopted this procedure after realising that many so called ‘spam’ messages contain basic errors of spelling, errors of punctuation and grammar or simple profanity. As you will know the basic problem of spam filtering is where to set the threshold so that no important messages are deleted, and so that few spam messages are delivered. Mr Stafford reasoned that he would not miss being denied badly spelled, poorly constructed or simply rude messages — even genuine ones — and that this procedure would be most effective in identifying spam that was not caught by his frontline spam filters. Additionally, this system means that any spam that is delivered does at least have the virtue of being well written, something which mitigates a good part of the offence, he feels.

This is why I have been employed as an ’email butler’, and why you are hearing from me rather than receiving a reply directly from Mr Stafford. Please understand, I am certainly not saying that your message *is* spam, merely that it fails on my checks of what we regard as proper English. Perhaps you have misused the apostrophe? I’m afraid to say that the misuse of just one of these little fellows is enough to have your message rejected (not so with mis-spellings, which my employer allows, in my opinion, to compose a very generous percentage of the message).

If you feel that your message is important enough to be brought to Mr Stafford’s attention then I would urge you to either redraft with more care, or to send a short note to Mr Stafford requesting that you be added to my list of his trusted friends and colleagues — I’m afraid to say that, as has always been the case, the ‘right sort’ are allowed to get away with behaviour that would have the ordinary person thrown out of polite society!


E Butler

On behalf of Tom Stafford, Esq