Not too long a headhunter sent me this job ad. I’m paraphrasing and shortening a bit of it so your brain doesn’t explode (and to protect the not so innocent). My comments and translation of the ad copy are in italics.
Job Title: On-line Newsletter Operations Professional (On-line Newsletter Writer)
Principal Accountabilities (Principal accountabilities? Oh, I think you mean job tasks or position’s duties)
• Manages the daily activities necessary to produce the monthly and quarterly newsletters with a focus on the execution of the on-line newsletters (Write and edit monthly and quarterly on-line newsletters)
• Coordinates creation of each newsletter between internal content creators and an external partner (Work on newsletters with both internal and external parties)
• Manages external partner’s efforts to send each newsletter on-time (Make deadlines)
• Acts as primary resource for discussion on the capabilities of the newsletters (Collaborate with staff on how to produce effective newsletters)
• Assists with continuous testing efforts to improve the results of the newsletter program (Monitor newsletter results and create improvements if necessary)
Okay, my comments and translation took just a couple of minutes to write. It really wasn’t that difficult. Sure, my copy isn’t as “fancy” as the original but it does get to the point, right?
Well, getting to the point doesn’t seem to very common in business writing and speaking these days. If you’re a citizen of cubicle land you’ve probably also noticed this when reading internal or external business communications. And if you think reading and listening today’s business communication is a pain try writing it. I have and it’s one of the quickest ways to gaslight yourself.
I’m not only the one who is frustrated by the current state of business communications. Brian Fugere, Chelsea Hardaway and Jon Warshawsky are also frustrated and they tell you why in their informative, smart and very funny book Why Business People Speak Like Idiots: A Bullfighter’s Guide.
Fugere, Hardaway and Warshawsky have spent plenty of time in the trenches writing professional copy so they know bad business communications when they see and hear it. They break business communications down into four key sections:
1. The Obscurity Trap
2. The Anonymity Trap
3. The Hard-Sell Trap
4. The Tedium Trap
You’re probably familiar with the obscurity trap. This is when businesses use pretentious phrasing and cryptic wording, much like the job ad earlier in my review. Business often use the obscurity trap because they believe it makes them come across as important and impressive but it is ultimately meaningless and confusing. Sadly, those proposing this type of writing come across as insufferable twits.
Sometimes businesses are afraid to show personality or a unique voice. This is the anonymity trap. Businesses use customized templates or try to fit into a boring standards because they think that’s what they should do instead of trying something different and making themselves stand out from the crowd. This writing makes it difficult for the reader to distinguish one company from another.
Most of us hate the hard-sell businesses often practice. Sure, we love to buy, but we don’t appreciate being sold to. The hard-sell trap is when businesses use their communications to bludgeon you into buying something just to make some money rather than asking you about your needs, your wants and your opinion on their services and/or products. The hard-sell trap is about seeing clients as dollar signs not individuals. This makes us feel used, not appreciated and understood.
Lastly, we come to the tedium trap. This is when businesses use tiresome and boring communication styles that are completely devoid of a compelling story or an innovative panache and nearly puts us to sleep. You’ve probably come across this during a meeting featuring dull Power Point presentations and even duller speeches. In other words, let’s top using boring clip art and when giving a speech have a little fun. Fun is good!
Why Business People Speak Like Idiots not only examines these traps it also offers suggestions on how to avoid them using clear language, real-life examples, and lots of wit. This book not only offers great ideas on how to avoid banal corporate speak in written communications but also in visuals, slogans, speeches, presentations and meetings. Yes, business communications can be enjoyable and at the same time inform, educate and persuade.
And as an added bonus, I really liked the glossary of terms that should be banished from business speak like “action item,” “best practice,” “deliverable,” “client-focused” and “value-added.” Client-focused and value-added? Well, that should go without saying.
Now, I know I’m not the only one who picked up this book and claimed, “Yes, I’m not going nuts. Business people do speak like idiots!” However, I also fear this book might only resonate with the already converted. How do we get the non-converted to step away from the dark side other than force them to read their business communications “A Clockwork Orange” style? Well, I don’t have the answer to that but I do think Why Business People Speak Like Idiots is an important book that will hopefully enter the consciousness of everyone in corporate America.
Why Business People Speak Like Idiots. Read it. Learn it. Know it. Live it…before it’s too late.