“XXX is presently out of office. He will return on Tuesday, 8 September. For immediate response, please contact YYY at yyy@...”I wondered if I was the only one tempted to send yet another message asking him where he would be running for governor. This, of course, was an out-of-office auto-reply message. But the content is not automatically generated, and other auto-reply messages from the same firm correctly state that the auto-sender is “out of the office.” I add that my friend is a native English speaker and a prolific writer and, even more, speaker.
English-language titles and headlines have routinely dropped articles as far back as I can remember, but rarely if ever has this affected the main body of what we write. Native English speakers instinctively know what works and what doesn’t with regard to the bane of non-native English—particularly non-Indo-European—speakers worldwide. But the Internet, like any medium, changes the way we write, and the term “Out of Office AutoReply” is ubiquitous. So, have you seen this locution “…is out of office” as well? If so, we may be observing the obsolescing process of a definite article before a noun, an event that must be as rare as a total eclipse of the sun.