Sunday, 24 June 2012

Grammar fascism and ’ like’ rapping “ It’s just not cricket” in Business Communication

(This post is about some of the perils in business communication plus photos of cricket and an explanation of the game)

The war with Jargon and gobbledygook returned to the news this weekend.

I wish I used better grammar and syntax. Microsoft word does not always help but luckily there are people around who have both a mission and passion for clear and correct English who pull me up on my errors.

On  Graham Norton’s Friday night TV show, there was the compulsive viewing of  71 year old actress Miriam Margolyes and wordsmith rapper on the sofa  .’s habitual ‘misuse / overuse’ of the  ‘like’  word was picked up and corrected by Miriam Margolyes playing the role of his affectionate old style retired school mistress .

Similarly the Saturday edition of the Daily Telegraph ( see related links at the bottom of this post) wrote a story on  the Minster of State for the Department for International Development ( DFID)  Mr Alan Duncan's issuing a memo to his staff  from his private office to drop the use of jargon.

What I liked  about both stories was how both and Alan Duncan  both sportingly admitted their own grammar shortcomings and  allowed themselves  to be challenged and corrected . allowed Miriam Margolyes to interrupt his anecdotes or explanations every time he said ‘like’  when she interjected  “No dear , ii’s not  ‘like’ It’s  ‘is’ “. continued  to correct himself with humility. ( Don't so many of us have these  useless verbal mannerisms?)

Similarly DFID minister of state  (MOS )Alan Duncan openly finished his memo to his staff

“Disclaimer: MoS is always willing to be challenged about his judgement on grammatical standards and will not take offence at a properly reasoned opinion.”

Buzzwords and jargon are not a new phenomena. As you can see from this fun buzzword generator from the 1960s which would still work today - take a look and have a go at using it.

How to use this Buzzword Generator .
You can construct 'apparently' impressive  business speak sentences
 using one word from each of columns 1 ,2 and 3.
No-one will have the remotest idea what you are talking about
 but the important thing is they will never admit it
- except perhaps for Miriam Margolyes or Alan Duncan M.P.

Alan Duncan MP  issued a memo  last week accusing staff at the Department for International Development of damaging Britain’s worldwide reputation by using “language that the rest of the world doesn’t understand”.

Maybe Mr. Duncan’s civil servants don’t see themselves as internal salespeople or their boss as their customer but it is a similar ‘like’ situation – as might say!
Yet even the simplest of language
 can confuse as in the game of cricket

“ You have two sides, one out in the field and one in.
Each man that's in the side that's in goes out, and when he's out he comes in and the next man goes in until he's out.
When they are all out, the side that's out comes in and the side that's been in goes out and tries to get those coming in, out." ( to be continued)

 Mr. Duncan ‘s  feed back on his civil servants’ communication included

·         A preference that  we did not ‘leverage’ or ‘mainstream’ anything,

·           he is happy for economies to grow, he does not like it when we ‘grow economies

·         He  is not impressed with the loose and meaningless use of ‘going forward’, either at the beginning or the end of any sentence.

·         He has recommended that DFID  do not ever ‘access’, ‘catalyse’, ‘showcase’ or ‘impact’ anything.

·         He was depressed by reading about DFID’s work in ‘the humanitarian space’.”

·         “He would also prefer to meet someone than ‘meet with’ them.

·          A sentence which begins with ‘Grateful for your…’ would appear to be lacking the prefix ‘I would be…’.”

 “All our communication must be immediately explicable to the non-DFID reader. Clear language conveys clear thought. Its poor use suggests sloppy thinking.”

“It irks when nouns are used as verbs,

apostrophes are left off (or misplaced),

compound adjectives (such as UN-led) are not hyphenated,

and sentences are begun with ‘But’ or ‘However’.”

 Mr Duncan  explains he “finds it annoying when conjunctions such as ‘which’ or ‘that’ are inexplicably dropped in a way which ruins the flow and logic of a sentence. " and that "submissions should have a logical flow and not attempt to fill the page with every conceivable fact that can be retrieved by cut and paste.”

It concluded with further instruction on the type of letterhead that should be used, and the styling for how phone numbers are listed.
"Sometimes you get men still in and not
out. When a man goes out to go in, the men who are out try to get him
out, and when he is out he goes in and the next man in goes out and goes in."
( to be continued)
It  all reminds me of the film “ Life of Brian”. There is a  sketch of a Latin lesson. All about parsing and grammar Latin. Possibly  Mr Duncan  sees himself as a Roman Centurion / schoolmaster and his civil servants the beleaguered Brian!
You tube clip from life of Brian ( play and enjoy but please return in 4 mins!)
So what has this to do with Selling?
Simply put , our words in speech and written coomunication are under our Buyers' grammar and jargon microscope in  so many more communication channels than before.
10 key communiction channels that the TACK Buyers' views of salespoeple 2012 study has captured. The TACK Buyers views of Salespeople  includes respondents views on the quality of such channels by salespeople with Buyers is shorty to be published . For more information
Marketing Week  featured an editorial awhile back on new jargon:
 "While likeonomics might sound like jargon, it is an effective strategy when applied properly, so I'm pretty certain this is a word that will stick." the edtorial went. 
The  article ( written in April 1012 I think) mentioned other new terms are "SoLoMo" and "plussification".
"..There are two men called umpires who stay out all the time and
they decide when the men who are in are out."  to be continued
 SoLoMo  blends the terms "social, local and mobile", so that customers who use a smartphone can be targeted with increasingly personalised marketing based on their location or social network profile.  e.g.  a commuter waiting for a train could be sent a voucher for the station cafe.
"Plussification" refers to the use of Google+ to boost the search engine rankings of content shared there.
 In selling we can all slip into jargon and sloppy grammar. Indeed some of the expressions from Alan Duncan’s memo like ‘going forward’ are trotted out in today's pitches.
"When both sides have been
in and all the men have been out, and both sides have been out twice

after all the men have been in, including those who are not out, that
is the end of the game." HOWSAT?!"

(Photo:The cricket teams for the match All Sainys Church ,Fulham
versus St Luke's Chelsea at Barnes Elms fields June 23rd 2012)
Alan Duncan's concern is that poor grammar and jargon from DFID endangered Britain’s worldwide reputation by using “language that the rest of the world doesn’t understand”.
The same danger  could be said for the reputation of professional selling. Time for us to rid ourselves of sales jargon and buzzwords - once again.

Related Links;
Daily Telegraph
Business Jargon Article in Daily Telegraph April

Information at TACK International

Other research studies by TACK International

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