Archive for the ‘Good words, bad words’ Category

Speak English, why don’t you?

Tuesday, February 15th, 2011

So you think English is the international language of business, do you?

Well, I beg to differ: the language I hear most often in the workplace is mediaeval Latin. (more…)

This is a colleague announcement

Tuesday, December 15th, 2009

Today, I’m delighted to introduce a guest post by fellow copywriter Richard Owsley. In true goodcopybadcopy style, it’s a rant against a nefarious piece of corpspeak – happy reading!

Colleague. What does the word mean to you? Not ten years ago, but now.

To me the answer is easy. It means a supermarket shelf stacker, call centre worker or a downtrodden white collar junior at a large unwieldy organisation like a bank or phone company. Shame really, given what the word used to mean.

In fact I think it has probably become the most abusive term possible for addressing your staff. Because the deceit is so flipping see through. (Sorry, am I meant to say transparent?)

How would these workers refer to themselves, if asked? Staff, probably. Employees, maybe. Staff sounds fairly professional and employee sounds functional enough – we’re employed by an employer, we understand the relationship. Workers is fair enough as well, for that’s what we are.

But in the Human Resources world (which solar system is that in, I wonder?) these decent, acceptable descriptions are seen as disparaging. Not, I venture, as disparaging as most normal people find the expression human resources. But then the people who work in this field don’t really seem to listen to or understand the views of normal humans.

As copywriters, we have to fight against this nonsense. Please do not insult people with the word colleagues. We should make it our job to tell the HR fools where to get off. Sorry, are we allowed to say job, I can’t remember?

Richard Owsley has a business degree and postgraduate degree in marketing and has been working full-time as a copywriter and editor for over 15 years. He lives in Bristol and runs Writers, a copywriting company with offices in the UK, France and Australia.

richard@writers.uk.net

What are your personal oxymorons? (Yeah, yeah, “oxymora” for you pedants out there)

Friday, September 11th, 2009

Reading another blogger’s post on irony and paradox, I was reminded of a particular type of paradox: the oxymoron.

An oxymoron is defined as “a figure of speech in which apparently contradictory terms appear in conjunction”. The most commonly cited example seems to be Tennyson’s “faith unfaithful kept him falsely true”.

Sometimes, however, phrases are labelled oxymoronic for humorous effect, the most well-known, perhaps, being “military intelligence”.

So in response to Robert Hruzek’s group writing project, “What I learned from laughter”, I’m taking a break from whinging about bad corporatese to present a light-hearted but highly revealing list of my personal oxymorons.

What did I learn? That I’m still an old curmudgeon. That – amazingly – I grew up to be the coolest kid in the class. That I like food more than I like children. And that I better not find myself with a black marker pen near any corporate art. Read on . . .

Skiing holiday
I’m sorry, but any holiday that requires you to spend most of your time a) cold and b) engaged in near-frictionless travel down a big slippy-slidey hill is not a holiday – it’s torture.

It’s particularly not a holiday when taken en masse, as so many skiing trips are these days. Being the only person in a large group of your peers who is rubbish at engaging in near-frictionless travel down a big slippy-slidey hill is just a cruel reminder of school sports. I guess at least this time round I have the option of spending all day sipping margaritas in the jacuzzi. (Hey, it turns out I was the cool one at school after all!)

Sports news
The content of your typical sports report is this: “Group of not-very-bright men kick round object into square object more times than other group of not-very-bright men”. And this is on the Today programme because . . . ?

Street art
If it’s in the street it’s not art – it’s graffiti.

That’s not an insult, by the way. Give me gloriously grubby Rome – where every other ancient monument sports some anarchist scrawl – over the sanitised streets of London, any day. Besides, by way of art, the latter are invariably decorated with anodyne works of corporate nonsense commissioned by some large developer as an unwanted gift to the local community in return for a shameless land grab.

(Yes, Land Securities, I am talking about that rubbish stripy panel you’ve put under the bridge at Blackfriars in London’s SE1. At what point did you not realise it looked like a carrier bag from Paul Smith? Or was this a deliberate attempt to attract high-end retail into those buildings of breathtakingly inhumane scale that you’ve thrown up nearby).

Child-friendly restaurant
If it’s child-friendly, it’s not a restaurant. It’s a nursery that happens to sell mediocre food. Unless you’re in Italy, of course, where all the children are restaurant friendly – i.e. they can sit still for the duration of a meal without crying when presented with garlicky stuff, food that still has a face attached to it, and tentacles that were still twitching only minutes before they hit the plate.

Folk music
I can’t say it better than one of my heroes: “There’s a reason folk music is so bad – it was written by the people.” Thank you, Tom Lehrer.

So, I’ve fessed up to my gripes and prejudices – what are your personal oxymorons?

To Click Here, or Not to Click Here: That Is the SEO Question.

Wednesday, August 5th, 2009

Today, I’m delighted to introduce a guest post by one of my favourite bloggers, web and social media expert Brad Shorr of Word Sell, Inc. Regular readers will know that here at goodcopybadcopy we like extremely detailed discussions of business vocab, but even I had never guessed that there was so much to know about those two little words “click here”. Thanks, too, to Brad for introducing me to the phrase “link juice”. Read on, Macduff.

To sleep: perchance to dream – click here.

Did you click on the link just above? Weren’t you itching to? That’s the power of the much debated “click here” link. (more…)

Strapline clichés to avoid #2: any strapline that includes the word “passion” (but especially if it’s combined with “excellence”)

Friday, July 17th, 2009

Sooo, the last person on a final salary pension left the firm years ago.

Repeated rounds of redundancies have left people wondering if they’re next out the door.

And you’ve just asked your workers to take a pay cut because “we all need to pull together to survive the recession” (and, ahem, because your now departed chief financial officer decided to refinance the company with a derivative contract that his investment bankers told him would make him look great in front of his boss. Jeez, what kind of an idiot agrees to be on the other side of a bet with an investment bank?)

But despite all this, you still think your employees have an intense, emotional attachment to their work. And that the phrase “a passion for excellence” captures exactly how your firm gets things done. (more…)

“Roles” versus “jobs”, or how the economic crisis has exposed an insidious corporate euphemism

Monday, June 15th, 2009

My parents’ generation all had jobs. Today’s workers, lucky creatures that we are, have “roles”. At least we did – until the financial crisis hit. (more…)

Guest post on the Word Sell blog: Solutions

Wednesday, May 6th, 2009

I’ve got a guest post today on Brad Shorr’s brilliant Word Sell blog. So please head over there to read my latest rant on everyone’s favourite piece of business-speak. Yes, it’s the dreaded word “solutions” . . . (more…)

Queasing: sign the petition in The Times!

Wednesday, March 11th, 2009

The Times has launched a petition to get the term “quantitative easing” replaced by the more manageable “queasing”, as suggested by one of their readers. (more…)

In praise of the simple word “said”

Monday, September 22nd, 2008

As I discussed in my last post, inexperienced writers, told that repetition is A BAD THING, believe that when you’re quoting several people in an article, you need to avoid repeating the word “said”. (more…)

Why you should steer clear of leverage

Thursday, August 14th, 2008

The word “leverage” has to be top of my list of words that should be banned. I’d never really come across it since ‘O’ Level Physics. But then I started working in an investment bank and I heard it all the time. (more…)