Talk Normal: Stop the Business Speak, Jargon and Waffle

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 16 October, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 16 October, 2011, 12:00am


Talk Normal: Stop the Business Speak, Jargon and Waffle
by Tim Phillips
Kogan Page

Do you 'think outside the box'? Do you glibly talk about 'going forward'? Are you also prone to talking about 'low-hanging' fruit and using the vacuous newsroom adjective 'ongoing'? And do you blather about 'redefining' things and 'empowerment' and 'synergy'?

Admit it: you use some of this jargon because it sounds impressive. But it is just annoying and confusing, according to journalist Tim Phillips, who has 20 years in the industry behind him. Phillips hates pretentiousness - and the hatred, bolstered by wit, lends force to his attack on pomposity.

Just look at his account of training a company director how to talk to the press, which never printed his words. The reason was simple, it turned out: the director could not stop selling.

'He didn't offer a biscuit; he positioned biscuit consumption as a win-win proposition which developed a beneficial partnership,' Phillips writes.

Businessmen wedded to waffle and PowerPoint presentations take a pasting. So too do lawyers, who are especially offensive amid the 'tsunami of twaddle' that so infuriates Phillips.

The unwritten lawyer's style guide apparently decrees that a lawyer should never use fewer than four clauses per sentence. Nor should a lawyer enlist full stops when perfectly good commas are available, Phillips snipes.

'If you used short sentences then people would be able to read your article out loud to peasants; and then poor illiterate people would understand your argument and your status would be forever compromised,' he writes.

Phillips is also tough on his own profession.

Journalists - or 'churnalists' - risk degenerating into 'the advocacy industry's gimps', Phillips claims. Too much journalism, he says, amounts to copied press releases full of the buzzwords he dislikes passionately, or rather hates. The word 'passionate' is another of his pet peeves, which crops up in seemingly every job advertisement you read.

To be passionate about the average job, you would need to be mad, he argues. Just do not call your job 'a role', he adds and rips applicants whose resumes are full of sickening fluff and fake-happy gibberish. Good for him.

On the downside, the self-styled 'graphs nerd' with a blog called Talk Normal inserts more graphs depicting buzzword frequency than necessary. Also, sometimes the humour feels strained.

But, on song, he is every bit as sharp as Dilbert cartoonist Scott Adams and pleasingly thorough. So many worthy but overlooked targets take a beating. The satirist even skewers the online resource as the 'go-to resource for mediocre advice'.

Clearly, going forward, the 'thought leaders' behind it need to think outside the box.