Mindless And Wordy Imitation
"Circle back when you find the bandwidth in your schedule, and we'll discuss the synergies that can leverage our shovel-ready plan, because at the end of the day, it’s all about drilling down and creating robust solutions that achieve time-sensitive, client-oriented, transparent results, taking us to the next level."
Then and only then, may I add, will we be well-positioned for...wait for it...GOING FORWARD.
I have a question: Is there any other direction we can take? Or can we indeed go backwards? For that matter, can we stay right here in the present in some sort of stasis that gains us absolutely nothing? Would you agree that anything other than moving second by second, minute by minute, into the future belongs in a "Twilight Zone" episode?
I wouldn't mind if I heard the mindless "going forward" only from sportscasters and the jocks they cover. But how did it creep into business communications? Why do we keep seeing it on consultants' websites and hearing it from Armani-clad "experts" on cable TV? I don't have an answer. It's mystifying. Why do we find such comfort and security in reflexive, silly imitation?
Same goes for past history or past experience. In its noun clothing, the word "experience" has come down to us through the ages as a term that, in a certain context, has unambiguous meaning. Why is that not good enough? I just don't get it. (By the way, if you've been visited by "future experience" or "future history" visions that proved to be accurate, the two of us should stop by the county fairs up here in Maine where we can bet on the standard bred horses that pull those delicate-looking sulkies around the harness-racing tracks. You can be our guest right up through the Fryeburg Fair in early October.)
At Least One Federal Agency Gets "Branding" Right
I've been teaching writing courses at Veterans Affairs Medical Centers all over the country, and it's gratifying to see how communications skills have helped turn around the public image of what were often reviled institutions. I'll admit here that, being a vet myself, we can be overly whiny at times, but there's no changing the impression that VA hospitals not too many years ago were viewed as the health care of last resort.
Now, when I ask my class participants to write about their jobs as if they were addressing a non-specialist (the goal is "plain language," as defined by a much-needed new federal law), they often get right to the point about "caring for America's heroes" or making their hospital the veterans' "health care of choice," instead of indulging selfishly in long-winded and bureaucratic descriptions. And to hear my students -- clinicians, chaplains, social workers, HR types, etc. -- tell it, VA hospitals are a great place to work, which is welcome news for millions of veterans.
The Three Foundations Of Clear Writing
"The best style is the style you don't notice." ~Somerset Maugham
The famous novelist had it right. And the world of business communications is no different. Effective writers get their point across concisely without calling attention to the way they write. The reader understands what the writer is conveying -- questions, answers to questions, a call to action, a persuasive point -- in one reading.
Getting there starts with three foundations of successful writing, whether a project report, a technical evaluation, a sales pitch, or a brief email:
- Writing is thinking. It should be viewed as an opportunity for critical thinking, a gift of time to show how smart you are.
- Know your readers. Successful writers use inclusive language, not pompous, jargon-laden language that excludes. They write to edify, not to impress.
- Edit/revise. The first two foundations are meaningless if you don't check your work carefully. Sloppy or nonexistent writing can make you look foolish.
Enjoy the spring weather.