Monday, December 05, 2005

Your feeback[[']s] welcome

This appeared in an email at work recently:
- One specific feedback we’ve received from our customers is that they would like to ...
I found this just a very tiny slightly small bit odd. Feedback is, in my experience, a collective noun. Granted, the standard means to indicate an individuum from the collective is the unsatisfactory "a piece of feedback," which is not only bland, but which doesn't even work -- you can have a piece of cake, but what the heck would a piece of feedback look like, anyway? Haha.

I sent this around for commentary, and one of my co-editors made this astute observation:
"Feedback" as a collective noun seems analogous to "e-mail": "One e-mail I received said..." I'm probably the only one on the planet who doesn't refer to individual e-mail messages as "e-mails." Let's see how long it is until you find "Many feedbacks we've received..." :^)
I had a fight once with someone (in email) about the use of email to mean "piece of email," and about the inevitableness of that usage and moreover its lack of ambiguity in everyday speech. (The counter-argument was that you would never refer to a letter as "a mail." FWIW, our in-house style guide insists on both the hy-phen ("e-mail") and on referring to "e-mail messages.")

The fact that people don't refer to feedbacks suggests that even if the analogy to "e-mail" has some merit, the word feedback has not yet fully made the leap to count noun. So keep your ears (and email eyes) open, folks.

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