A Rant

Time to Read – Goodness Only Knows

I recently read a column in a trade journal which had so many management speak words, terms and phrases that I didn’t understand the point of it at all.

I thought ‘this is too bad of me, I really must have a go at working out what this is all about as I need to keep up with the latest management thinking’.

So, on further and deeper analysis, the point of it was (I believe) (two and half pages later) that organisations are too functionally organised to really serve the needs of their customers and to keep up with the current pace of change.

Now, this IS interesting to me.

I can only imagine the purpose of including so much jargon is to dress up simple concepts to make the author look clever (when in fact the author is an idiot), or to pander to scrabble players, or to cover up the fact that this is not really startling, earth shattering or new news (albeit interesting).

Now that assumes my conclusion of the main point is correct. I may of course be wrong, in which case, even more, (please forgive the shouting) WHAT’S THE POINT OF WRITING LIKE THAT?

If you want to make a point, then get to the point.

Rant Ends

With Love to you all
David

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13 Comments

  • Just wanted to agree with your ‘rant’! I stopped subscribing to trade magazines as I just didn’t understand them! I really do believe they are written for other magazines, the same as advertising is done for other advertising agencies. It says, (or is supposed to say)’ look how clever we are – bet you don’t get it either!!’ So who wants to know? Are the other agencies going to go out and buy the products? Are the other trade magazines going to get all excited, pretend they know what is being said? It’s a no win, no win situation!

    Rant over!! Keep ’em coming!

  • Neil Robinson

    Ah, wonderfully refreshing ,…..classic D.T. KISS principle analysis

  • Perry

    I agree with the rant yet do have something to say about those who might use Plain English as a “dumbing-down” bludgeon and to remind us all just how wonderful, poetic and at times beautiful the English language can be. Yes keep things simple but how are we to stretch ourselves and learn if we over-simplify things every time we write a feature? Some words we use are fantastic, so vivid and image-conjuring. Juxtaposed; ethereal; altruistic – they’re not everyday red-top headline speak, but they are interesting words that to me, invoke curiosity about the words, the author and the subject. Some simple versions of words are beautiful too and others feel flat and predictable And then there’s trendy words – some make me laugh, others are vulgarities. Anyway, if the communication is lost then it’s wordplay for wordplay’s sake and I agree but let’s not use some of those wonderful words out there. Remember the Blackadder sketch with his “Contrifibularities£? It sent Dr Johnson off in rage that he’d missed something. Words are powerful when used in the right way and that to me means not using the same words all the time. Variety is the spice of life. Or should that be Expansive vernacular useage is an enhancing element to our existential being. Enjoyed the article though, well “ranted”.

  • David,
    I agree….to the extent that I have tried to model your style in my own blog.
    I discovered that keeping it brief and to the point is harder than I thought it would be.
    Keep up the good work.
    Adam

  • I have come to accept that there are certain organisations that really want their advisers to use big words in order to prove that they understand their subject.

    This puts the consultant in the awkward position of having to comply or lose the project. I have worjked on my own solutions. I have rarely lost a project due to my inability to communicate.

    I suggest that others bear this in mind, identify the client profile and use the appropriate language.

  • theresa hodges

    Loved it – and also love the english language although shorter is almost always better. When working overseas, the cogency of expression of those whose first language is NOT english takes my breath away. If they can also crack jokes in english too, then you know you are in the presence of very significant brain power. T

  • Cogency! I had to look that up and I agree with one or two of the comments in that we shouldn’t have words simply taken out of the English Langauge because it can be a beautiful thing.
    On the other hand, keeping it brief, albeit with alternative (not different) words can be refreshing and add interest to the article/piece/reading.

  • Big words can mean a better read although it’s not necessarily how long the word is, just whether you need to be so flowery when a point is to be made.
    Good rant.

  • Diana Calligaro

    I must say, I have forwarded this to all my colleagues – I work in a Communications team for a large banking group and I despair at the same issue you describe. I spend ages re-writing messages submitted by various workstreams for the weekly email newsletter and other communications intended for our colleagues in the nearly 1000 branches all over the country.

    We were discussing this very subject in a recent Communications Course I attended at work. I was feeling a bit frustrated as I was trying to re-write the messages in plain English, succintly and jargon-free, and kept getting emails from the stakeholders who were to sign off the messages to change back to the “more professional language”!

  • Diana Calligaro

    PS to my previous message, after reading Perry’s: I was not “dumbing-down” the language used in the messages I spoke of above, in case someone may think that was why I was asked to revert to the more “professional” language.

    A few examples of being “pretentious” as our Comms Course tutor put it:

    as a consequence of = because of
    ascertain = find out, establish
    assist = help
    cease = stop
    commence = start
    concerning = about
    consequently = so
    despatch = send
    despite the fact that = even though
    due to the fact that = because
    endeavour = try
    remittance = payment
    so that we can = so we can
    facilitate = help

    And the list could go on…I am not saying that this should be applied in ALL situations, but sometimes, using the first alternative when we write is similar to adopting a “telephone voice” – and nearly all of us are guilty of that at times. As a former journalist, I learnt that an easy way of keeping sentences short and simple – therefore easy to understand – is to make sure there aren’t too many unnecessary words in them. Sometimes they’re needed, of course, perhaps to soften the tone. But often we use these ‘extra’ words to make copy sound more formal.I think in Management Updates and other internal communications we don’t want to sound overly formal. We want people to read on, understand and receive the message positively.

    However, I feel your pain, Perry – we are also in equal danger of “dumbing down” our writing because so many people these days have quite reduced vocabularies.

    “I would never use a long word where a short one would answer the purpose. I know there are professors in this country who ‘ligate’ arteries. Other surgeons only tie them, and it stops the bleeding just as well.” ~Oliver Wendell Holmes

  • Hunch

    Perry is right – English is a beautiful language. Throw in the odd poetic word but be mindful of context – you dont need to litter business comms with lyrical adjectives.

    Agree 100% with David and Diana. Jargon – avoid, avoid, avoid. And pretentious or cliched substitutes for simple terms as described above by Diana – get out of the habit of doing that and your communication becomes clearer and you’ll eventually earn respect for it.

    I started work at 16 and after two years as a junior, I was allowed to write the occasional covering letter when sending out drawings to clients and planning departments. I would write the letter in clear concise English stating what was being sent and why. Almost always, the letter would come back with many, even dozens of corrections. Hardly ever were there any constructive alterations – it was always to insert cliches like ‘herewith’ and ‘hitherto’ and ‘notwithstanding’ and other long-winded extravagance. I refused to embrace this nonsense and I stuck to my simple style as I believed then, as I do now, in clarity in business communications. Only very recently have I received positive feedback about this.
    The attitude from superiors when the 18 year old me would submit his letter seemed to be….’you nitwit…..it cant be this simple!’ The same attitude prevails today….’make it sound clever’. Thats fine – but not if the point you’re trying to make is lost.

    By the way, I worship Blackadder and save my eloquence for quoting him in the pub!…

  • ‘Herewith’ and ‘hitherto’ and ‘notwithstanding’ have to be the three most long-winded words in history and are so out of date it’s not true.
    They are old fashioned and for someone to deliberately change what you had written smacks of doing it just to sound clever.

  • Some of the old English language leaves a lot to be desired and getting to the point, achieving the point, attaining it, grabbing it, understanding it, and any other adjective you would like to use about it, is the important thing, aspect, conclusion.

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