CORPORATE SPEAK – A FOREIGN LANGUAGE

Businessman talking corporate speak

“Due to our strategic goals to maximize performance for a sustainable outcome, I’m going to have to let you all go.”

 

As a copywriter whose job it is to write as simply and clearly as possible, my pet hate is corporate speak. It’s not only business people who use it – politicians, government officials and many people in the public eye love it – because they can use lots of important sounding words to create the illusion that what they’re saying is important. But when you analyze the words they’re meaningless.  Like balloons, they’re full of air. Prick them and you’re left with a shrivelled heap of rubbish.

Having worked in government departments for many years, I’ve been surrounded by corporate speak and it sets my teeth on edge.  It’s become so commonplace that people look at you strangely if you ask them to ‘please speak plain English.’

From my observations, there are three main reasons people use it:

  • Conformity. Everyone is using it so it’s easier to do the same. And it’s not as if you make a conscious decision to do it – it’s insidious. When others are using the words as everyday language it takes a supreme effort of willpower, as well as awareness, not to follow suit. It also gives the false impression of harmony and team spirit – that if you’re all using the same language it’s assumed you understand each other and are working towards the same goals
  • Habit. This follows on from conformity, Once you’ve been using corporate speak for a while it becomes a habit you’re not even aware of.  And perhaps it even spills over into your personal life. ‘I think it’s best practice,’ you tell your child,’ to take advantage of this window of opportunity to do your maths homework if you want a sustainable outcome.’
  • Laziness. It’s easier to come up with a sentence full of fudge words than to think about what you really want to say and express it in simple words. As someone said recently in an article I read – if you need to use jargon to express your idea, perhaps there’s no idea there.

So join in my campaign to banish corporate speak ! Let’s be proactive in raising the bar on the quality of our language. At this point in time I’d like to call on all thought leaders to bring to the table their focussed, dynamic and action oriented plans to rid ourselves of this inappropriate form of communication.  Moving forward, let’s push the envelope and aim for a ballpark figure of say, nil % corporate speak by the end of the year. It will require a paradigm shift in our thought processes, but I’m sure we can all leverage our resources to create a seamless transition. At the end of the day we’re all on the same page, aren’t we?

If you need help interpreting corporate speak here’s a handy resource.  And if you want to express your opinions and help fight the good fight, have a browse around Weaselwords.

What are your pet hates in corporate speak? I’d love to hear them.

 

About the Author Robin Storey

Robin Storey is an Australian author from the Sunshine Coast in Queensland, Australia. She is a certified book nerd and has no weird hobbies or unusual pets.

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