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Friday, 25 May 2012

Business jargon is bad writing

If you want to be understood – speak simply and clearly. Sounds easy doesn’t it? Why then is this so difficult to do in business communications? What happened to plain English and why do we put up with so much meaningless corporate twaddle in the workplace?  Nonsense like:

“Integrated management options”; “functional third-generational programming”; “joined-up organisational capability”,…what corporate claptrap will they come up with next?

We’re all familiar with it - corporate jargon - that brain-numbing, business mumbo jumbo we have to suffer on rambling corporate websites, woolly staff memos, stuffy company policies and self-important mission statements. Pure, puffy, unadulterated verbal drivel that’s rich in long-winded, complicated word nonsense and packed with ridiculous and mostly American sporting metaphors. How many times have you heard: “We need a level playing field to win this”, “As a company, we punch above our weight,” and, “Could you give me a ball-park figure for that?” and of course, “Let’s get our ducks in a row first.”  Can we stop the rot? Buzz words and phrases that serve no other purpose than to bamboozle and confuse even the person delivering them.

 Here, for example, is a classic case of public sector ‘jargonitis’:

“….will demonstrate the practicability and cost-effectiveness of integrating and provisioning service offerings beyond institutional boundaries, either as part of a Shared Service arrangement or through an externally hosted provision, including cloud-based services or applications.”

Hmmm…..that’s clear as mud and definitely one for this year’s Campaign for Plain English Golden Bull Awards!

Clearly, jargon speakers and writers suffer from one or all of the following: they’re compelled to use corporate buzzwords as a substitute for thought, they have an inferiority complex which comes out in a superior way; alternatively, they are trying to cover up the fact that they don’t know what they are talking about.

Plain English is genius
Great communicators from Winston Churchill to Martin Luther King, have always been able to express their thoughts and ideas in vivid and down-to-earth English that even a three-year-old would understand. In truth, the most effective and powerful communications are successful because they create an emotional connection with the listener which speaks a truth we can all relate to and identify with.   

So, if you want your business communications to really mean something to your audience, make them simple, meaningful and emotive.

The E=MC2 Dejargonator
Here’s a list of jargon-busters to help you on your way – our thanks to Grammar Party, Say No To Jargon and the E=MC2 Public Relations hefty jargon collection. This is an evolving list so please feel free to send us your contributions. The Plain English Campaign is also accepting nominations for their 2012 Golden Bull Awards at:

Actionable: Which projects are actionable this year?
PLAIN ENGLISH: Which projects can we do this year?

Action item: This is an action item for this week.
PLAIN ENGLISH: This is something we need to do this week.

Air out: Let’s air out that issue in today’s meeting.
PLAIN ENGLISH: Let’s discuss that issue in today’s meeting.

At this juncture: We can’t go public at this juncture.
PLAIN ENGLISH: We can’t go public at this time.

Ball-park figure: Give me a ball-park figure for the job.
PLAIN ENGLISH:  Give me an estimated cost for the job.

Blue-sky thinking: We need blue-sky thinking.
PLAIN ENGLISH: We need to think with an open mind.

Brain dump:  We’ll need a brain dump from you after the meeting.
PLAIN ENGLISH: We’d like you to brief us after your meeting.

Bring to the table: What can you bring to the table for this project?
PLAIN ENGLISH: What can you contribute to this project?

Close the loop: We’ll have to close the loop on this conversation.
PLAIN ENGLISH: We need to stop talking about this.

Core competencies: These are our company’s core competencies.
PLAIN ENGLISH: These are what our company does best.

Core values:  Our core values underpin the company.
PLAIN ENGLISH: The company has operating principles.

Close of play:  He wants it by close of play today
PLAIN ENGLISH: He wants it by the end of today.

Disconnect:  There’s a real disconnect here.
PLAIN ENGLISH: We have a problem.

Domiciled: He’s domiciled in Spain.
PLAIN ENGLISH: He lives in Spain.

Expeditiously: It needs to be done expeditiously.
PLAIN ENGLISH: Do it quickly.

Face time: We need more face time.
PLAIN ENGLISH: We need to talk to each other more.

For the purpose of: For the purpose of clarity…
PLAIN ENGLISH: For clarity…

Forthwith: It needs to be done forthwith.
PLAIN ENGLISH: Do it immediately.

Granularity: There’s not enough granularity in this.
PLAIN ENGLISH: We need more detail.

Think outside the box: We need to think outside the box.
PLAIN ENGLISH: We need creative ideas.