Syndicate content

Abused Word of the Day - Actionable

June 16, 2014

The only action the word "actionable" is worthy of is to strike it from your vocabulary.

In a business context, “actionable” almost always precedes the word “item.”  An “item” is “actionable” if it requires someone to take action, so “actionable items” may include everything from firing your assistant to picking up donuts for your staff. 

Every item is "actionable," so why bother using this word?  have you ever hear anyone refer to an item as being "inactionable?"

My dictionary defines “actionable” as “giving cause for legal action,” which is fine, because lawyers are accustomed to awkward word constructions. 

Whoever started using it to modify “items” should be sued.  Consider joining me in a class-actionable suit.

Business People Talk Funny

June 16, 2014

The abuse has to stop.

In the business world, thousands of words are being mangled, tortured, distorted and misinterpreted every day.  The words may not feel the pain, but those of us who read them do.

Consider an example plucked from the Internet: “Human capital valuation is too important to silo it within HR.”  Oh, the torture!  Make it stop!

Or consider this sentence from a press release: “Kate will work closely with our leadership team to enhance our efforts in nurturing home-grown talent and attracting skilled professionals who can infuse their unique expertise in areas of growth.”

If your expertise is in “areas of growth,” perhaps that is unique, but this agency’s “home-grown talent” must have kept its talent at home when this press release was written.  The writer must have been too busy enhancing, nurturing and infusing to write a sentence that makes sense.

In a previous post, I poked fun at fellow marketing professionals who overuse and abuse words like branding, robust, proactive and solution.  But, as the above examples show, there are many more victims of abuse and marketing professionals aren’t the only abusers.  It’s time to call your attention to some of the victims.

I will attempt to publish an example daily, beginning tomorrow.  Doing so could keep this blog active for many years.

The Language of Evasion, Hypocrisy, Prudery and Deceit

February 17, 2014

Why don’t we just say and write what we mean?

Instead, we often communicate in code.  Apparently, we’ve concluded that the people we talk to or write to can’t handle the truth, because we increasingly substitute euphemisms for real communication.

A euphemism puts a yellow smiley face on what we really mean.  It is a verbal cosmetic, a word or phrase applied like makeup to a wrinkled, sagging reality.  It seeks to be comforting, but is often annoying.  It is, as R.W. Holder put it, “the language of evasion, hypocrisy, prudery and deceit.”

Uncomfortable realities, such as death or job loss, bring out the worst verbal obstructions.  Today, no one dies.  People “pass on” and even pets are “put to sleep.”  If you’ve “lost” a “loved one,” unlike losing a set of reading glasses, you’re never going to find him.  A lost loved one is not misplaced – he’s dead – but it would be bad form to say so.

One Space Will Do

May 10, 2013

In a previous post, I bemoaned the missing space.

Having been taught at an early age that a sentence ends with two spaces, I was critical about the lack of respect two spacers get.

One Space Or Two?

April 22, 2013

If you write for a living, you likely spend way too much time worrying about little things, like when to use a comma, whether it’s OK to split an infinitive or when to write in second person.

Nothing is too trivial to escape attention.  For example, I’ve long wanted to know what happened to the extra space at the end of a sentence.

It used to be routine to use two spaces at the end of a sentence.  Now, no one (except for real old timers, like me) uses two spaces.  When did one space become acceptable?

Two spaces are much better than one.  The double space reinforces the end of a thought.  It makes a sentence a sentence.

Maybe it’s more efficient to use one space, but if you want the reader to think about each sentence, an extra space can create an opportunity to pause for a nanosecond or so before moving on to the next sentence.

So give me back my space.

 

When Should You Use An Exclamation Point? Almost Never!!!!

April 1, 2013

“An exclamation point is like laughing at your own joke.”

F. Scott Fitzgerald

Remove the exclamation point from the keypad, and the volume of e-mail and text will drop by half, as fingertips around the world are struck dumb.

Exclamation points today are so ubiquitous, we hardly notice them.  They’re everywhere, like pickets on the fence of prose.

The Next Big Thing: Gender-Free Language

February 13, 2013

Pity the poor pronoun “he.”  No two letters strung together have caused more angst for a generation of writers than that simple pronoun.

It was once a man’s world, in which “he” ruled.  Then along came “gender neutral” language, one of the signature achievements of the baby boomer generation.  Awkward sentence constructions are its legacy.

Anyone Can Write – Just Like Anyone Can Sing

December 12, 2012

It’s true that anyone can write – in the same sense that anyone can sing. Writing well, like singing well, takes practice, skill and a discerning ear.

Unfortunately, many people in the business world write off key without realizing it. They produce a cacophony of overused words like “quality,” “solution” and “service,” and mistake it for a concerto. Like the tone-deaf singer at church, they attempt to make up in volume what they lack in skill.

PR Peeve #3: LET’S CAPITALIZE EVERYTHING!!! The Case Against Upper Case.

December 2, 2012

Too many people are screaming to be heard. In an effort to stand out, they Capitalize Words that should be lower case. Or, worse still, they use ALL CAPS! (the exclamation point is also common, and some even use multiple exclamation points.

The worst offenders though are the associations that try to make certain terms special by not only capitalizing every letter, but registering the name as a trademark. For example, a real estate agent affiliated with the National Real Estate Association is called REALTOR®. This, no doubt, enables the association to charge higher dues than if its members were called realtors.