Friday, March 7, 2008

It's personal...or not

Screw up your pronouns, and you can look naked as a writer:

“Today’s savvy marketers are quickly realizing that viewing the customer as merely a target is a critical mistake. In fact, referring to the people that consume their products as anything other than people, is a mistake.”

And writing about people with a pronoun other than “who” is a mistake as well.

Onward... into new-word hell:

Onboarding: " the case of onboarding (adding a new hire)."

In some organizations, I hear this process can be as painful as waterboarding.

Trialing: "Advertisers have been willing to trial these products." It's trial to come across these constructions, but it's what I get paid the big bucks for!

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Coffehouse words

Many writers tend to jump on trendy words as quickly as they do trendy food and cocktails. Usually they do so without understanding the meaning. Abused about as badly as Michael Vick 's dogs is word "ironic." It's been hip for years, and it continues to be hip. Like cockroaches, I suspect, it will survive nuclear war. It's a word you pick up in college coffee houses, listening to your English major friends chat about Proust. It sounds intellectual. Most college graduates stagger out into the world having forgotten most of what they learned in school save for precious words such as ironic. They use such words liberally to erase any suspicion among strangers that they forged their diplomas.

Today, an otherwise insightful column from Mediapost, began this way:

I'M WRITING THIS COLUMN FROM the office of a Facebook Friend, ironically enough, as there was a building collapse in Harlem this afternoon that has canceled all train service out of Grand Central for the foreseeable future. Who knows when I might see the home office again?

A tough situation to be sure, but not ironic. Irony conveys meaning that is the opposite of its literal meaning. It might be ironic (or just plain bizarre) if the writer were typing from the office of the building that collapsed, but that's not the case.

So think about those coffee-house words before you employ them.

Onward... another day's worth of redundancies

Integral part: Integral means "part of" something.
End result: A result is the end of a process.
Irrefutable facts: A fact is something that exists, that is reality. Unless you're channeling Descartes, facts aren't refutable. (While we're at it, you might want to use "refutable" where applicable rather than "irrefutable." The latter is in the dictionary, but means the same thing--and the former's 1505-1515 origin beats the latter by a century).
Contributing factor: Factor: 1. one of the elements contributing to a particular result or situation.

Monday, March 3, 2008

National idiom shortage

You think the economy's in bad shape? Check out a Page 1 Onion story in the current edition.
Since beginning two weeks ago, the deficit in these vernacular phrases has affected nearly every English speaker on the continent, making it virtually impossible to communicate symbolic ideas through a series of words that do not individually share the same meaning as the group of words as a whole. In what many are calling a cast-iron piano tune unlike any on record, idiomatic expression has been devastated nationwide.


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