I have been thinking about language. May I invite you to leave the frenzy of the dance floor and come out onto the balcony?
Perhaps I can persuade you to cross your threshold of conviction and together we will mandate ourselves to find, at least pro tem, a band-aid solution.
Let me run this up the flagpole and see if you salute it - watch out for the insidious management speak and overblown metaphors
Do you have any idea what this means? I didn’t, either, until a quick Google put me right and I spent a fascinating half hour immersed in the art of neologisms - newly coined words and phrases.
This all came about because I was reading a corporate strategy document, intended, eventually, to gladden the hearts of customers, staff and stakeholders alike. It was about an inch thick and larded with amazing buzzwords, phrases and metaphors. Who would read it?
I feared it was destined to moulder away unloved, unread. Yet there were many excellent ideas within it, so I have “an arrow I would like to fire”.
About three quarters of corporate communication is in writing. At best, the use of management speak might show we are “cool”, on the ball. More often, it irritates, obscuring the message or even worse giving rise to the suspicion that we do not really know what we are talking about.
I would like to plead for no-nonsense writing that does, according to one advertising slogan, exactly what it says on the tin. Here are some tips:
- The only people who matter are your readers. Put their interests first. Always consider what is in it for them.
- Keep it short and simple - it is easier to understand.
- Use positive language rather than negative - it makes it sound as though you want something to happen. For example “remember” is better than “don’t forget”.
- Use active verbs. “It has been decided to” is less compelling than “the executive team decided to”, which says both “what” and “who”.
- Use verbs rather than nouns. Compare “we focus on performance measurement and standardisation” with “we measure and standardise performance”. Which is punchier?
- Watch your email etiquette. Use another medium for personal or confidential material. Use the subject box in the same way as newspapers and magazines use headlines - to grab attention.
- Use a format and style that makes your readers comfortable. Look at magazines, blogs, web forums - how do they “talk” to readers and generate interest?
- Check your readability score. If you use Microsoft Word, go to “tools”, then “spelling and grammar”. Click on “options” and tick the “show readability” box. Whenever you do a spell check, you will get a readability summary. Look at the Flesch reading ease - the higher the score the better. A score of 60 per cent equates to plain English.
Finally, let me run this up the flagpole and see if you salute it - watch out for the insidious management speak and overblown metaphors. Some of us may need to push the envelope on this one.