write clearly! it’s not your mission to confuse and bedazzle!

Posted on 01 February 2010

There’s a bee in my bonnet. Its buzzing grows louder with every stilted email full of unnecessary jargon and poor grammar. It ricochets wildly with every corporate cliché and meaningless acronym. There’s a mud shoveling effort afoot in business writing and the waters grow murkier by the day.

Why seemingly sensible human beings will speak in plain English on the telephone then drop synergy-bombs and litter “leverages” throughout their writing baffles me. Is it to impress your audience with your in-crowd vocabulary? Through confusion, do you hope to impress and awe? I’ve always thought that effective writing means getting your point across clearly with a voice and tone that suit the situation.

Whilst I don’t claim to be a terrific writer, here are just a few things that I avoid like the plague when creating an email.

  • Using an unnecessarily long word when a short one gets the same point across:
    • ascertain instead of find out
    • undertake instead of do or agree to
    • numerous instead of many
  • Replacing an easily explained concept with an undefined acronym:
    • PMO instead of “our current approach” or “what we do now”
    • FMO instead of “a new approach” or “what we will do in future”
  • Not only using a business-wank word, but misusing it! I’ve already whinged about leveraging instead of using but damn that pisses me off.
  • Liberal application of clichés:
    • Best in breed
    • Low-hanging fruit
    • Drill down
    • Cascading information
    • Moving forward
    • Touch base about that offline
    • In this space
    • The list goes on…

I’m afraid I’m fighting a losing battle. Does anyone feel like adding to my collection of writing sins?


6 responses to write clearly! it’s not your mission to confuse and bedazzle!

  • cam says:

    I realised upon reading this a few times that I’d made a couple of typos. There was even a sentence featuring a disagreement of tenses! So that’s another thing I’d like to add to my list of writing sins – not proofreading for obvious grammatical and spelling errors. Hrmph.

  • Ben says:

    Nice work Cam. I agree that it is important to get our ducks in a row, and keep in the loop on these points – then we can talk shop. There’s a need to move the goalpoasts, and nail this to the wall. I mean we are here at the coalface, no need to look at the horizon. We can just pan this out a bit.

    It’s a no brainer really. No great learning curve. Its really just a meet and greet, to put faces to names. After this to put it in layman’s terms, we’ll start ramping up and get out from under the rock. …

    If we have a target, we can streamline the troops as a stepping stone. From our perspective, there are no showstoppers right now, but if they come back and verbalise that they’ve fallen out of love with the value chain, we’ll need to take that on board and think outside the box. Perhaps even wipe the slate clean. I mean, this is not really set in stone. There may be some slippage. If its necessary for them to tick the box, then we can certainly strike a balance. Just so that we can see the wood for the trees here, I see this as your baby – I want to take a back seat here. The ball is in your court. I can certainly see some synergies from our previous dealings. Its not like I am going to be taking a scatter gun approach right now. In terms of value add, we are sitting pretty.

    We need a champion to get leverage out of the synergies that were created in streamlining the process and building head-room in this space. Perhaps you can populate a table so that we can get some buy in on this one and we can all own the project and be on the same page?

    If you need more traction send me a memo and I will unpack it and cascade it to the team. Then we can take this one offline.

  • Rakesh says:

    But big unnecessary words are fun! They make you sound like you know what you’re talking about or at least that you’re pretending to know what you’re talking about. It’ll be a bluff that no one dare call because when they in turn use the same phrases, they expect that you also nod and acknowledge their elite-ness.

    Here’s a list of buzz words I compiled in a 6 month period, when new to the game:

    Cheap and nasty
    Cheap and cheerful
    Wearing that Lens
    Putting on a different hat
    Taken on this journey to get where it needs to be
    Bare bones
    All singing all dancing
    Bells and whistles
    Have those conversations
    Core Capabilities
    New World
    Throw technology at it
    Value Add
    Pain points
    Story we need to paint
    High performance team
    Seeing if there is a better story here
    2 stories at play here
    Talk Shop
    First cab off the rank
    Don’t fail me now
    No free Headspace for this
    Computing Power on demand:
    Software as a Service: Applications delivered over the internet
    Platform as a service: Application development and provisioning delivered over the internet
    Boil the ocean / Cook the ocean
    Brown bag
    Hot to trot
    Downloads
    Blue Sky
    Point of Presence
    Presence of mind
    Hell for leather
    Rob Peter to pay Paul
    Call it out
    Throw away
    All that goodness
    Not going to set the world on fire | Set the world on fire
    Pieces that start to build it out
    They’re all coming in quick now
    Socialise
    Lynch Pin
    Before my time
    Face sell time
    Walk the floor
    Fireside chat
    Press the flesh
    Dog’s Breakfast
    The idea has legs to it
    Best Endeavours
    Burning Platforms
    On the front foot
    Tipping point
    Eureka Moment
    “The Challenge is…”
    Low hanging fruit
    Crest fallen
    Strike whilst the iron is hot
    Flavour
    Break the boundaries
    Cap in hand
    Humble pie
    A more meaningful dialogue
    Ring fence around it
    Conscious of time
    Capture hearts and minds..
    Silver bullet
    Cliff Notes

  • […] is just a quick one really, a follow-up to my rant on wanky weasel words from a month or two ago. The first irksome cliche I’ve been shuddering about seems only to […]

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