But what if you can’t?

David Meerman Scott has a post up about making writing easy to understand. I think he makes sense:

Here is the product page. Click the thumbnail to see the screenshot of the page as of November 21, 2011.

The problem with using language like game changer, innovative solutions, next generation, world-class, customer-centric, and the like is that these words and phrases are so overused as to have become meaningless.

Here is an analysis I did on gobbledygook phrases so you can avoid the most overused ones. (Incidentally, the most overused phrase in my analysis was innovation / innovative.)

Again, not groundbreaking stuff. Make your writing easy for other to consume. Don’t use corporate speak. But y’nkow what I always think about? What about companies whose business depends on being opaque and inscrutable?

Take Bank of New York Bank of New York Mellon Corporation, for example. I remember reading in a Felix Salmon post that BoNYMC has $25 trillion in something (liabilities, leverage, assets, something like that) and having no clue what that means, because the number is so incomprehensibly large. So, I toodled over to their Wikipedia page to see what exactly they do. Their operations are summed up like this:

The company employs more than 48,000 staff worldwide and has over US$ 1.2 trillion in assets under management and $25.5 trillion in assets (LFS: right, OK, that’s what I read) under custody and administration thereby being the largest deposit bank in the world.[2] It operates in six primary financial services sectors including asset management, asset servicing, wealth management, broker-dealer and advisory services, issuance services, and treasury services.

So: asset management, asset servicing, wealth management, broker-dealer and advisory services, issuance services and treasury services. I read that and said: yeah, but what do they do? That language is designed to disguise and for good reason. Banks can’t actually tell people what they do. People would be furious.

So, clear language is good. I’m with Scott on that. But you can only convince some businesses to use it. For other businesses, clear language is inimical to their operations. And all that talk about being part of a dominant coalition and that crap is bunk. It just isn’t going to happen.


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