Dictated But Not Read
Nearly every business executive used to have an administrative assistant, and one job is taking notes or recording a verbalized document. Today, computers have become more affordable, which limits this practice, but a few executives still ask their administrative assistants to create documents verbally.
At some point, it became popular to show off the privilege of having an administrative assistant by sending a memo or letter with the phrase “dictated but not read” or the abbreviation “DBNR.” Executives included it to warn readers that they had not reviewed the final document.
Readers were supposed to be impressed with the tremendous power of an executive with an administrative assistant, but the phrase inspired an unintended result. People (probably beginning in the 1960s) without an administrative assistant began including the phrase to impress their readers.
Readers caught onto this deception and treated the phrase like a power play. “If you did not bother to review this document, I should not be bothered to read it.” “You tried to impress me but failed.” “How arrogant.” It is like ending a letter with a mousetrap that snaps at the reader’s fingers.
Most business executives use computers to create their documents, yet this phrase is still in use. A week ago, I received an insurance company junk mail that had this phrase. It made me wonder, “What the heck were you thinking?” Recruiters and human resource managers have told me they always get resume cover letters with this phrase. A former coworker used this phrase in his email signature as a joke. It nearly got him fired when he sent a status update to a vice president. One of my friends was trying to get a grant and included this phrase. He had little success. I wonder why?
What is going on in those people’s minds? “Hey, look at me!” “I want to be important.” “Please fear me.” “You must be prepared for my immense power.” “I need confidence.” “This sounds cool, and I don’t know any better.” “I read this once, and it impressed the heck out of me.”
Taking a deeper dive into writer’s minds, I think some genuinely do not know how offensive they are acting, even with so much evidence. They might lack empathy or awareness. Perhaps they do not understand consequences or good taste.
I suppose including “dictated but not read” initially impressed a few readers, or perhaps it had a legitimate purpose. Now, it is a relic of the past. I should end this article with a power play to impress you, but it would be cliché to use DBNR. I know. Hey Seri. “Yes, Bill.” Please end this article. “I have brought the article to an end.”

You’re the best -Bill
February 7, 2024
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