Delighted to reach out to seasoned, passionate curators
Updated: Jan 6
(updated to take in additional banned words)
The great philosopher David Byrne said in the seminal Talking Heads song Psychokiller “You're talking a lot, but you're not saying anything”. This can be applied to an increasing amount of communications that are simply not hitting the mark because of imprecise language.
As someone who spent 20 years on British national newspapers, where every word was scrutinised not only by an editor but also a sub-editor, among the most pedantic of professionals, I have found out to my cost when something you say doesn’t deliver the right message. So, it irks me when floppy, jargon-ridden launguage is used in external communications
To help those temped to use them, here’s an initial list of a words and phrases that shouldn’t appear in your external communications:
“Passionate”. Are you really passionate about making widgets? C’mon. I’m passionate about Arsenal football club, my wife and family, and one or two other things I’d better not mention here. This is one of the most abused words in modern communications;
“Pleased/delighted” – as in “We are delighted to launch our new superduper widget” as opposed to “We just shoving it out because we have nothing else.” Of course, you are pleased or else you wouldn’t be making an announcement. These words are redundant;
"Thrilled" - see above unless you are "Simply Thrilled Honey". The emotion of the CEO is not adding to my knowledge in any substantial way;
“Take (very) seriously.” I’ve dealt with this one before – essentially it is a holding statement when you don’t know what you are going to do. But as it’s so overused, it’s become obvious that you have no practical solution;
“Curated”. Do you run an art gallery or a museum? No? Then you don’t curate. You might select, or offer. Don’t get pretentious;
“Reach out”. “Can I reach out to you?” “Are you Diana Ross or a member of the Four Tops?” “No.” “Then you can’t”;
“Seasoned”. This is increasingly appearing in recruitment communications. But what does it mean? Has the person been covered in salt, marinated in a spicy Thai sauce or oiled regularly (or even well oiled)? No, it is a euphemism for experienced, trying to get around age discrimination rules. As such, it is only a matter of time before a smart lawyer uses it against you. Stop now before you find yourself in court;
"Woohoo!" - I only get this excited when Gabi Martinelli is bearing down on the Chelsea goal. I don't feel that way about a new service on your app;
"Ecosystem" - fine when used by Sir David Attenborough but overused in tech. I saw a technology investor quoted as saying "Western Europe doesn't have it own ecosystem." Thanks - we're all dead then;
"Unique" - not the word itself but "highly unique" or "paricularly unique". Don't you realise unique is an absolute so you can't be "highly unique" just as you can't be "highly dead".
I could go on, but I think I’ll leave it to others to suggest words and phrases to be consigned to the communications dustbin. My abiding advice is – keep it simple, write it like you’d say it. Read it out. If it sounds wrong, it will read wrong.
Meanwhile, I’ll run run run run run run run away.