I just switched voicemail clients and I haven’t recorded a new greeting yet. Mostly out of laziness, but also partly out of conflicted intentions.
This is what my outgoing message has more or less been, for as long as I can remember:
"Hi, this is Lora; sorry I missed your call, but if you leave me a message, I’ll get back to you as soon as I can. Thanks!"
(Yes. You can *hear* that semi-colon.)
Now, a dissection.
Standard greeting. Nothing wrong or inappropriate here.
this is Lora;
Indeed. The voice of the person recording the outgoing message belongs to Lora, as does the voice mailbox associated with said outgoing message.
sorry I missed your call,
And so begins the stickiness. Many times, I *am* sorry I missed the call, but many times as well, I am quite indifferent to having missed the call– and even still are times when I am not sorry I missed the call, but in fact *deliberately* did not answer the phone! Thus, the odds of this clause upholding its truthfulness are, at best, 50/50. Which means at least half the time, this casual apology is a flat-out lie.
but if you leave me a message, I’ll get back to you as soon as I can.
Oh! Oho! Oh man. There– you know, I don’t know if there’s a shred of truth in any part of that. This is a falsehood on every level possible. Which would be three. And they are!:
Level One, The Simpler: If you leave me a message, I will NOT get back to you as soon as I can. I will probably hem and haw for anywhere between five minutes and a couple of hours. Sometimes, I won’t get back to you at all, either because I procrastinated for so long that I completely forgot or because I just really didn’t feel the necessity of the action.
Level Two, The Slightly More Complex: There’s a conditional implied by this wording. *IF* you leave me a message, *THEN* I’ll get back to you as soon as I can. Applying a little elementary Logic gives you "All instances in which you leave me a message are instances in which I get back to you as soon as I can." Or, for the graphically inclined:
The thing is, it’s misleading. The caller is given to believe that I will *only* get back to them as soon as I can under the condition that they leave me a damn message. Logic, of course, would prove otherwise; given "if P then Q", it is false that "if not P then not Q". And a quick glance back at the graph shows that there is plenty of room inside of A for an alternative to B. I can think of two off-hand, in fact– C) call five times in the space of one minute to indicate urgency, and D) send me a text demanding that I call you ASAP.
Level Three, The Vaguely Unrelated: Actually, I delete 70% of my messages without even listening to them. Sometimes before I even call that person back.
This is more a reflex than it is a heartfelt sentiment, so I don’t know how to analyze it. It’s *filler*, really, except tacked onto the end. Thanks for what? For attempting to get a hold of me? For listening to this outgoing message instead of hanging up in frustrated disgust after the final ring? For harboring a desire to engage in voice-to-voice conversation with me?
I’ve been trying to come up with an honest yet tactful  outgoing message, but so far, the best I’ve produced is: "Hi, this is Lora; I’ve missed your call, but feel free to leave me a message summarizing your purpose and/or intent. If this is an urgent matter, to ensure the speediest response, I would recommend contacting me via either e-mail or SMS. Thank you!"
No superficial apologies, no false promises. But lord, does it sound anal. And who wants to have to listen to all that, just to leave a message? Then again, maybe it’ll discourage people from leaving messages. Man. I– I really– I’m *not* a phone person.
 The asshole version, of course, being something like: "Hi, this is Lora and you’ve reached my voice mailbox because I haven’t answered my phone; this may or may not have been intentional on my part. Either way, you’re welcome to leave a me a message, though doing so won’t guarantee a timely response, nor will it guarantee any response whatsoever. If I know who you are, actually, I probably won’t even listen to the message before I call you back, so there’s no point in leaving one. And as always, the most effective way of getting a hold of me is through e-mail and text messaging. Have a good one!"