Blog in 07 2012.
Our clients often tell us that new graduates are some of the biggest offenders when it comes to bad writing at work. They come fresh from university and think the way to impress the people upstairs is with buzzwords and fancy language. Of course, what newbies don’t realise is that the people upstairs don’t actually want corporatespeak. Nobody does.
But the damage is already done. Most students have spent at least three years reading and writing rambling jargon-filled essays, and take those bad habits with them into the office. So we go from ‘significations invested in symbolic forms of culture’ at university, to ‘enabling multi-platform media interactions’ at work. (Yes, they’re both real quotes.)
We like to quote from an academic paper by Daniel M Oppenheimer in our workshops: Consequences of Erudite Vernacular Utilized Irrespective of Necessity: Problems with Using Long Words Needlessly.
Oppenheimer’s research says that people use long complicated words to sound clever and make their subject matter seem more important. But readers prefer writers who use shorter words and clear, concise English; and actually think they’re more intelligent too.
If students and recent graduates were given the confidence to write a little more like they speak, business (and academic) writing would improve overnight. So here it is: Write a little more like you speak. Drop the jargon. Use everyday language.
That’s all very well for history or English, you might say, but it doesn’t apply to physics. You can’t go dumbing down the theory of relativity. I’ll let Einstein field that one: ‘Everything should be made as simple as possible, but no simpler.’
We’re with Albert.
We’re not just writing, thinking and training in Blighty.
Right now we’re busy in Hong Kong, Slovakia, Germany, the Czech Republic, Italy, the USA and Switzerland as well. It’s teaching us a lot, like the fact that there’s more than one kind of English out there for businesses to use.
I’ve just been doing some training in Indonesia. And the first instruction our client gave me was: ‘When you arrive at Jakarta airport, only take a Blue Bird taxi.’
Indonesia, it seems, has a problem with dodgy taxis. Yet everyone but everyone says you can always completely trust Blue Bird. One Jakartan rush hour (well, Jakarta doesn’t seem to have anything other than a rush hour) we stood in torrential rain, other taxis from other firms splashing past, while my client insisted we wait for a Blue Bird.
That’s the kind of unquestioning loyalty most brands would kill for. It’s not like they’re expensive either; not by British standards, anyway. And if you do want to spend a bit more, you can take a Silver Bird, Blue Bird’s swankier sister (nice naming system there). I couldn’t think of any brand in the UK that was as accessible but so completely trusted. You’ll never see it on the list of the world’s best brands, but it really is a belter.