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On the death of language 20, September 2010

Posted by thegulfblog.com in Opinion, Random.
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There’s an excellent article in the FT on language using Apple and Microsoft as instructive examples.

Apple:

“We have over 250,000 apps in the App Store. We don’t need any more Fart apps. If your app doesn’t do something useful or provide some form of lasting entertainment, it may not be accepted.”

The tone is direct, comic and elegantly threatening.

“We will reject apps for any content or behavior that we believe is over the line. What line, you ask? Well, as a Supreme Court Justice once said, I’ll know it when I see it. And we think that you will also know it when you cross it.”

And Microsoft:

The brand new browser, it says, “delivers a richer, faster, and more business-ready Web experience. Architected to run HTML 5, the beta enables developers to utilise standardised mark-up language across multiple browsers”. Well I never. Reading this, I’m bored and restless, irritated and alienated.

And an example of truly crappy modern prose from Bob Jeffrey, the head of JWT.

“Global consumers are rapidly re-evaluating and readjusting their value paradigms and purchasing decisions. Our job is to keep our ear to the ground with these consumers, providing relevant real-time insight to our clients that inspires cutting-edge, cost-efficient solutions.”

The Apple version of this would be something like: “Consumers can change so we try to keep up.” This version reads better, but it is not hard to see why Mr Jeffrey didn’t put it that way. “A relevant real-time insight” sounds like something that a befuddled client might pay more money for. [how true]

Then the author explains why all this matters.

An even better example of the link between high profits and low language was on the appointments pages in the Financial Times 10 days ago. It was an advertisement from “one of the largest and most trusted banking and financial services organisations in the world” which was hoping to hire a “customer journey re-engineering manager”.

This title contains three layers of obfuscation: the ludicrous yet ubiquitous idea that a banking customer is on a journey; the idea that this journey needs re-engineering; the notion that this needs managing. There is only one conclusion to be drawn: surplus profits generate bonuses and bullshit in equal measure.

All interesting stuff.

Also this morning I came across the BBC’s style guide which is – amazingly – quite a good read. It was difficult reading for me in places as I discovered that I was (am) routinely committing numerous language faux pas. I’ll endeavor to improve.

Hat tip: RIM

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