Monthly Archives: April 2013

A Foreign Language?

You have to love the business world. It has concocted a whole new form of English that sometimes sounds so, so important and impressive—until you translate it into the everyday English most of us use and realize that so-called business English is nothing but puffery.

Good English is good English, no matter the context. We already have all the words we need to make our ideas readily understood.  There is no need for writing like this:

“This is a project for approval by the appropriate decision bodies.”

What, pray tell, is a decision body?  Is it a person (with a body, one would hope) who is authorized to make a decision in that office?  Or is it a committee (made up of several bodies) delegated to give approval?

All the writer needed to write was something like, “This project will ultimately be approved by [a named person or a specified committee].

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I Dare You to Translate This

I bring you another example from the corporate world:

“As projects tied to [this program] progress, a regular cadence of communication updates will be provided.”

“A regular cadence of communication updates”?  Who comes up with these phrases?  I am awed by the author’s sense of self-importance.  What guts, what courage, what chutzpah to write like that!

Here is my feeble attempt at guessing what the writer meant:

“You will get regular updates about the projects connected to this program.”

It’s a good idea to use the pronoun “you” to involve each reader. It’s also a good idea to use the active voice.  Another good idea (I’m full of them today) is to drop some of the slightly la-de-dah words, such as “provide,” and go for something really simple, such as “get.”  Stop “purchasing” and start “buying.”  Stop “progressing” and just “go.”

 

 

 

 

 

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Now Translate This!

Here is another jawdropper from the corporate world:

“…a strategic framework to catalyze positive and consistent operational improvements…”

What do you suppose that means?  Here is my guess—but it only a guess:

“…a plan to bring about positive, regular improvement [in some area, which is not defined but should be].”

Have you noticed these days how almost everything is defined as being “strategic”?  Apparently, if it’s not “strategic” it’s not important (in the corporate mind).  The most common use is a “strategic plan.”  Don’t all plans require strategy? You think through what is needed to solve a problem and then implement it. How can you plan without using strategy?

Too often writers don’t think about the words they want. Because we are bombarded with verbiage (that word carries a negative connotation) every day, we have these chunks of bullshit floating over our heads. It is so easy to write by just reaching up and grabbing a chunk that sounds oh-so-impressive and may hint at the meaning we want, and then shoving it into our own writing.  The result is vague, upholstered language that makes the reader guess at what we really mean.

It’s worth picturing your reader sitting across your desk while you explain in plain English what you really mean. It won’t take much time, and you will eliminate guesswork and errors caused by misinterpretation.

Off my soapbox I go.

Wikimedia Strategic Plan cover image

Wikimedia Strategic Plan cover image (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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April 15, 2013 · 7:42 PM

Grievous and Mischievous and Homogeneous (Oh My!)

The first two words are often given an extra syllable when spoken, but they don’t merit it.  It’s not GREE-vee-us, nor is it mis-CHEE-vee-us.

They are pronounced GREE-viss and MIS-chiv-iss.

As to the third mispronunciation:  the word is homo-JEEN-ee-iss, not huh-MOJ-en-iss.  The latter seems to be the affected person’s choice.  Instead of adding a syllable, as in the first two words, many people are dropping a syllable in homogeneous.

Thank you for your attention and consideration of my suggestions.

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Another Round of Shameless Promotion

cover for ebook

My ebook, Your Kid Said This! is now available on Amazon for the Kindle (PC and Mac), and through iTunes as well as Barnes and Noble.  You can read a free excerpt, and the whole shebang, complete with illustrations by children, will set you back $2.99.

I have collected adorable, funny, insightful quotes from children on various topics: Love, Sex, Brothers and Sisters, Grownups, Food, Potty Time, Language, Logic, Manners, Religion, School, Clothing, and Swearing.  I’d be so pleased if you would just take a look and read the free sample and then let me know what you think.

Thank you!

Judi

 

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April 12, 2013 · 8:53 PM

Translate This!

A friend in the corporate world sends me wonderful (read: hideous) examples of inflated writing she sees.  We both wonder where these words and phrases originate.  Do people sit in their offices deliberately trying to make something simple into something complex?  If so, what do they hope to accomplish?  Do they believe others will see them as more intelligent and professional?

Here is a sentence she sent me today.  What do you think it means?

“This probably works out better for you, in that it provides you more time to socialize the idea with the others.”

To socialize the idea with others!  Really?  I’m guessing the writer meant the recipient would have more time to send the idea to others and get their opinions so they could all talk about it and come to a decision.

Instead of the weird “socialize,” “discuss” would have done the job.

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The “Only” Problem

“Only” is the most commonly misplaced modifier.  Depending where you put it in a sentence, it changes the meaning entirely.

Here is a basic sentence:  I read the newspaper.  Now let’s play around with “only.”

1. Only I read the newspaper.  This says no one else in this house reads it; I am the only one who does.

2. I only read the newspaper.  I don’t do anything else with it: I don’t recycle it, I don’t line the birdcage with it, I don’t put it in the bottom of the cat’s litter box.

3. I read only the newspaper.  I don’t read books or magazines or anything else, just the newspaper.

4. I read the only newspaper.  This town has just one newspaper, so that’s the one I read.

5. I read the newspaper only. This has the same meaning as #3.

The trick with all modifiers is to put them right next to the word about which you want to give more information.

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