Thanks to one of our readers for this:
I called a local city council member, and the assistant’s voice message said, “I am sorry I cannot take your call. Please leave a message and I will call you back at my earliest convenience.”
The usual formula is, “Please get back to me at your earliest convenience.” I’d never heard it turned on its head before.
Apparently the distorted version is gaining some popularity on business answering machines; a browser search brought up several business sites on which bloggers and commenters question the usage.
No doubt the people recording message with this phrasing believe it sounds polite. It doesn’t. Changing “your convenience” to “my convenience” transforms courtesy into arrogance.
“Your convenience” conveys the thought that that the originator of the message wants to hear from the other person as soon as that person is able to spare the time.
“My convenience” says, “I’ll get back to you when I’m good and ready.”
The idiom “as soon as possible” is another one that needs to be handled with care. I don’t know if it’s just my reaction, but to me, writing out the words “as soon as possible” seems more polite than using the common acronym/initialism ASAP.
Note: Some people pronunce ASAP as a word, but others name the letters one by one.
I need the revised brochure as soon as possible.
I need the revised brochure, ASAP!
Little things, perhaps, but a lot of little things perceived as disrespectful add up during a day’s work.
If you have one of the “my earliest convenience” messages on your office answering machine, you might consider revising it. How about, “I’ll return your call as soon as possible.”