Blind to the blah-blah-blah of corporate writing

So much of what we read as employees follows a standard format and includes stock phrases and meaningless jargon. We build up a similar level of immunity to this kind of content as we do to web adverts. Our eyes skim across it without taking in any of the meaning – assuming there is some meaning behind it in the first place.

I recently had to send out a request to fellow employees to fill in our twice-yearly customer satisfaction survey. I started writing the standard invite text and then stopped and decided to rip it up and start again. I wondered how I could make this stand out for people and carry some meaning. So I started again … below is what I sent out.

Amazingly, I had a number of people e-mail me back saying what a pleasure it was to receive this e-mail and how it made their day. The response rate to the survey itself was nearly 40% … staggeringly high for internal surveys of this nature.

As communicators, we all know that we could write in a more engaging style and take that little bit longer to think about how the stuff we send out will be received … the problem is, we rarely do anything about it. From now on … I will … 🙂


Man shouting at laptop

I could say: “Your feedback is valuable to us …”; or start by saying something like: “In a bid for continuous improvement … ”; but I’m guessing you’ve heard this stuff so often before it’s become pretty meaningless … so, although these things are true, I won’t bore you by repeating them again.

Instead, I’ll just say that we – the ecomms channels team that is – are trying really hard to support you and would like to invite you to help us to do that even more effectively by filling in our short customer survey. I’m afraid you won’t be entered into a prize draw for a once-in-a-lifetime holiday – let’s face it, you wouldn’t win it anyway – but you might just help us make your life that little bit easier in the future.

Go on … you know it makes sense … please fill in our survey – it’ll only take you about 10 minutes.

Thanks very much.

Kind regards,

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  1. I like it! It’s so true how inured (I think that’s a word) we can be to business speak that we find ourselves using it when what we really want to do is to talk to people. Corporate jargon has its uses when it’s shorthand for something fairly complex but also routine, but it can be used by people who are speaking more for effect than for meaning.


  2. Thanks for the comment Anne. I think that part of the problem is that writing the same things and using jargon becomes a habit which we don’t think about – we just do it. We know it’s quicker and easier and we know it’ll get signed off more quickly. It certainly takes longer to write using a different and more engaging style but it is certainly worth it!

  3. It comes down to words, too. My personal bete noir is “solutions” when used for “products”. You can see how it originated, but when you insist that every product you make is “a solution” without saying what it’s a solution *to*, it becomes utterly meaningless.

  4. Ian – did you ever read the column in Private Eye in which people sent in examples of things being called ‘xxx solutions’ – it was hilarious … you’ve got to wonder what people are thinking of when they go down this route!

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