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Business Writing

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Not everyone agrees on the purpose of language. On one extreme are the pragmatists who claim it is to communicate. On the other are the romantics who, in the words of Dead Poets Society's John Keating (Robin Williams) who claim that the purpose of language is to woo women. Somewhere in the middle are businesses and similarly structured social and civic organizations, whose purpose seems to be to enshrine mediocrity.

The rules of “business writing” are myriad. Use simple sentences. Use small words. Reduce everything to bullet points and pictures. Follow not the example of Jane Austen, Henry James, or Vladimir Nabokov; use the model of Dick and Jane. It would seem that a large number business writing experts believe that in business, we're just too busy to think.

Just imagine: without thinking, people are turned into expensive information systems, simply acting on information immediately without any regard to what the expected result is or whether it makes any sense. In such an environment, doublespeak can thrive, and we can lose all connection between what one says and what one means. Even better, one can speak without having anything to say.

Organizations such as this deserve what they get: people wasting their time and others'. Instead of taking the time to read something and to understand it, they bog down other people around them asking for explanations. Instead of taking the time to write things properly so that they can be understood, they slap things together and tell the reader “you know what I mean.” Instead of addressing problems head-on, they speak around the issues, largely hoping that they will go away in due course.

We could do without this nonsense. Quidvis recte factum quamvis humile praeclarum. I'd like to propose corollary advice: only undertake that worth doing. But that's probably a recipe to destroy mediocrity.

Created by cmcurtin
Last modified 2005-09-19 06:24 PM

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