Thursday, November 1, 2007

More Corporate Executive English

Note: in the interests of confidentiality, the name of the business involved will be indicated by A_____, sort of like a character from a 19th-century novel.

"Driving wining business outcomes through effective relationships with critical scientific medical and policy decision makers."

This sentence has so many unnecessary words that I almost don't know where to begin. Why is "driving" the word of choice? If I had to guess, it is because it doesn't really mean anything specific, and yet it sounds Serious and Corporate to people who have been subjected to Corporate Executive English for extended periods of time. Furthermore, it apparently doesn't matter if the relationships are good or honest or meaningful, so long as they are "effective." Also, "decision makers" should be hyphenated.

A clearer way to rephrase this sentence would be: "Our goal as a business is to generate profits. We can generate greater profits if influential scientists and policy-makers look favorably on our business. Towards this end, their favor should be courted." Why didn't the writer say that in so many words? Think about it.

"Emphasize: 'A_____ - the reputation that delivers results.'"

This sentence is a great example of what bothers me about Corporate Executive English. What does this sentence mean? It is impossible to have a reputation that delivers results. This was written in a memorandum to a group of salespeople, so he probably means that A_____ has a reputation for delivering results. But, as written, the sentence implies that A_____'s reputation is so strong that it intimidates people into doing things which result in favorable outcomes for A_____, which is probably not the message that A_____'s salespeople want to promote.

"Actively participate in team building activities at the national and regional level."

National and regional are two different levels, so "level" ought to be pluralized, unless you're goint to stick the word "both" between "at" and "the." Also, "team building" should be hyphenated. Grammatical errors aside, phrases like "team-building activities" cause my blood to curdle, because they are totally meaningless. Real teams can only be built through common sacrifice towards common goals. I liked "team-building activities" so much more when they were still called by their old name, which was "work."

"Objectives should be action oriented."

I have no idea what this means. Also, "action oriented" should be hyphenated.

"Review your employees objectives and performance throughout the year."

I assume that the writer meant to write "employees'." Leaving that to one side, how can you review your employees' objectives in any meaningful way? All you can really evaluate is their performance, right? So, the word "objective" is thrown in there just to obscure meaning and sound more serious and "goal-oriented" and in all ways corporate. Wonderful.

I don't mean to be a snob here - really, I don't. I do, however, believe that, at some level, bad writing stops and bad manners begin. Writing is a form of communication. Badly punctuated, cliche-written, newspeak-laden writing is difficult to read, and the message the author intends to communicate is obscured. In my experience, corporate executives butcher the English language worse than just about any other demographic, in that they can speak at great length without imparting any real information. Office workers become so accustomed to hearing it that they eventually stop hearing it. This, I believe, is somewhat of a social harm. If that makes me a snob . . . I suppose I'm okay with that.

My previous rant on this subject can be found here.


IsmaelTapiaII said...

Ha. You're wrong about "action oriented" needing to be hyphenated. You see, phrasal adjectives like "action oriented" only need to be hyphenated when they preceed the noun they're describing. Therefore, if the phrase had been "action-oriented objectives" then, yes, it should be hyphenated. As it stands, however, it is correct. But you're completely correct in pointing out that the collection of sounds represented by the words "objecties should be action oriented" holds absolutely no meaning in the English language.

smiley said...

"Objectives should be action oriented?" Ugh. I think my tenth grade english teacher just started to cry.