Why it’s sometimes good to piss off your readers

You know the saying: there are no statues of committees.

But there are lots of committees in the corporate world. As a business writer, every word you commit to paper will be scrutinised by a dozen eyeballs at least.

Maybe that’s because having opinions about language is difficult.

The committee acts as a safety blanket. If the hive mind agrees that the words are right, no single person needs to take responsibility if it all goes pear-shaped.

But let’s face it: committee decisions don’t tend to go pear-shaped.

The committee is a sieve. You put something jagged in one end and out the other comes a perfect circle. Smooth. Inoffensive. Beige. Like every Wikipedia article.

And that’s the thing. Though safety blankets are good for fighting disasters, they never come in shocking puce. Committees protect, they don’t provoke.

But sometimes writing should be jagged. It should piss people off. Make them gasp. Make them cry. Make them feel something.

That’s why everybody mentions either this or this when pressed for the best ad of all time. The VW ad will have put off swathes of potential customers. The Economist one will have irked anybody with a discrepancy between their age and job title.

Likewise, I’m hoping a lot of you will disagree with what I’ve written in this blog. Because that’ll mean there’s a core group of you who don’t.

But either way, at least you’ve reacted. If I’d put this blog through a committee, you wouldn’t have had the chance.

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