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Getting a Grip on Business Speak

March 23, 2001
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I've been sitting here wondering if I'mready for The New Economy. I haven't quite gotten a grip on the last one. MaybeI don't even need to get involved, since I keep reading that it's basicallytoast.

    Flashy and hippublications like "Fast Company" make me think that I've beenkeeping the wrong company all this time. I might have lost a decade or twosomewhere, even though I thought I was an active participant.

    A friend called meyesterday and said she was looking at ads for tech writing jobs. "It askedif I can make my technical writing sing," she said.

    Frankly, I'm notsure people would choose to hear rather than read a software manual, especiallyif I sang. Maybe I've heard one too many techno-geeks at karaoke bars.

I'd suggest trying something new - speak plain English.

    One company's ad Irecently spotted said they were "running the numbers on a goodaccountant," and invited other companies to "find a number jockey whocan ride your books into the black."

    As a person who hasdone bookkeeping for a number of years, I have to say that I'd prefer a good,comfortable office chair with a lumbar cushion any time to straddling someone'sbooks.

    What's wrong here?Have I missed something, or are these people purposefully trying to attractemployees and customers who can't speak clearly?

    I don't know whatother countries are doing in this regard, but it seems to me that Americanbusiness people too frequently assume that new individuals within and outside oftheir organizations understand business jargon, or what I like to call,"Biz Speak." Why can't they see that this bastardization of thelanguage excludes rather than attracts people who cannot comprehend it?

    "XYZ Companymanagement and staff have the expertise to analyze your competitive situationand take a partnership role in sparking and crafting strategic and creativesolutions to marketing challenges," says a recent blurb about a companytrying to hire a marketing assistant.

    Just picture yourcousin Helga, fresh in from Germany, trying to figure out what to spark or craftfor this company.

    Robin Fisher Roffer,author of "Make a Name for Yourself," says that the right personalbranding will secure people a future rich in fulfillment and success.

    The mere thought ofpersonal branding sounds not only painful, but like something small cities havebeen trying to get banned from their downtown villages, along with tattooparlors.

    Why can't Rofferjust say, "Dress and act as you would like others to perceive you?"

    Tom Gable from TheGable Group has the right idea: The Jargonator, an online tool for"breaking through the clutter."

    Say you've justwritten a press release that says, "XYZ Company is built on a businessmodel that combines proven business strategy with cutting edge Internet solutionskills and breakthrough thinking."

    Hold on there amoment, Bucko. Want a journalist to actually read that release before hittingthe delete button? Copy and paste it into the Jargonator, where it will rateyour text on a "Jargon Scale" from 1 to 6, the last being, "Putit in your bird cage and start over."

    You'll be glad youdid. A study of all news releases sent via Business Wire and PR Newswire duringa one-week period had one "solution" being offered once every eightminutes on average. More than half of the companies claimed to be "leadingproviders." Almost all had what is referred to as LAQs, or Lame A-- Quotesin the third paragraph.

    "We arecommitted to offering the highest quality products and services that provide thebiggest values for our customers," is one good LAQ example.

    Now, I don't want tosound like your average idea hamster, but I'd like to know who owns this lastbit of blaghearting. And, to give the helicopter view without it sounding tooblue-sky, if you want to get a true Plug-and-Play into your cube farm to getgoing on your Cobweb site, I'd suggest trying something new - speak plainEnglish.

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