William Lutz’s book Doublespeak written in 1989, was harshly critical of educational and government institutions for burying the truth under language. These piles of words existed soley to make actions (or inactions) seem more important and complex than they really were. He was also harshly critical of the advertising industry for using words like ‘virtually’ for emphasis when it actually meant ‘not in fact’ — as in ‘virtually spotless’.
Today, however, business is just as guilty of weaving webs of language making life more complicated than it needs to be. Lucy Kelleway of the Financial Times pointed this out in a recent commentary:
CEO Howard Schultz had been asked whether Starbucks planned any more acquisitions, to which he replied: “I would say that we have enough to digest in the near-term, and there’s nothing candidly in our sightline that would suggest that we’re involved in engaging anything that we’re going to acquire.”
This is diabolical. It is 34 words, where one would do. It is self-important, horribly waffly, and makes a queasy nod toward honesty that makes one suspect the reverse.
It should be taken seriously, not just as a reminder of how business people are addicted to abusing meaning, syntax and metaphor, but to show that Mr. Wiens is wrong: There is no link between business success and talking like a regular human being. The company that launched the Caramel Frappuccino has no problem selling things.
The rest of her editorial can be read here: Link
It worth looking around your own office to see if you or your company are guilty of the same. Buzzwords are bad because they are vague and ineffective at best and, at worst, off putting and laughable.
There is no shame in speaking plain language. It won’t make your company seem less sophisticated or out of touch. The big secret about buzzwords is that everyone hates them and want to hear fewer of them.
Lead the way and demand plain language. Just don’t write a memo demanding “an increased awareness of overt industry speak through the enterprise” when “cut to the chase, folks” will do.