The odious language of business
To be understood in the boardroom, less really is more, writes
The greatest attribute and essence of good writing and journalism is being able to say whatever you need to say simply and clearly.
The best kind of writing is that which takes the most complex and technical subjects and explains them in ways anyone can understand. That’s because the whole point is that information must be shared and demystified.
As journalists, we don’t always get this right, but as people who’ve been practitioners for almost two decades, we always strive to do this. That’s the world we come from. Heck, it’s part of what we sell in our business of content creation.
This pivotal anchor of communication, however, is something that seems to have completely escaped the world of business.
Last year, as we started manoeuvring our way in the world of business and interacting with corporate clients as a start-up business, we learnt that sometimes we needed a thesaurus or an oracle to decipher what people were trying to say to us.
The world of business seems to take pride in the jargon it uses, whether written or spoken.
Sometimes the language is stiff and formal (and in effect inaccurate) when there truly is no need for it. For example, we would like it if people simply “got back to us” instead of “reverting”.
Now this is all new to us, so we’ve battled with whether we should familiarise ourselves with this language so that we are taken seriously and gain easy acceptance when dealing with potential clients, or stick to our guns and keep it simple. Say things like “this is what we can do for you”, rather than the tiresome “value proposition”.
We think these management-type crutch words are designed to make the people who utter them seem smarter than they are so they can show off their fancy qualifications, while leaving everyone else (the plebs like us) confused.
The impact of using these words is often the opposite, in that they seem empty and dead. They rarely convey or capture what they truly mean.
Many times, we have been locked in boardrooms with senior leaders who wax lyrical by using the most confusing, jargon-filled phrases, and our eyes glaze over as we try to make sense of what they mean.
Some of the favourites we have come across are things such as “learnings”.
“Some of the learnings we can take away from that workshop are...”
Why not simply say what you mean, which is: “This is what we learnt at that workshop.”
When did expressions like these even become words? I accept that language is constantly evolving, but why does business create and hog the worst sort of words?
Also, last time I checked, a takeaway is fast food like fish and slaptjips.