Take that, pedants

Many writers and editors subscribe to the principle that when used as a conjunction, the word ‘that’ can always, without exception, be cut from a sentence with no resultant impact on the overall effect. And in most cases, this is true. Brevity is clarity. Remove redundant words. Less is more (yawn).

But occasionally, less really is less – especially when it creates more work for the reader, which is the last thing you want unless you want your reader to go elsewhere.
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Ten annoying phrases people only use at work

Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the office (and just for fun), here are ten shining examples of peculiar corporate jargon.

1. To action
The epitome of the creative corporate art of turning a noun into a verb, ‘to action’ perhaps emerged in place of ‘to do’ because it evokes an image of someone being galvanised into an eager whirlwind of decisive activity rather than trudging back to their desk to do something boring on a spreadsheet.
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Lost for words in Mickey’s magic kingdom

Arriving recently at Disneyland I came across the sign pictured above while walking to the hotel entrance. Something about it bothered me.

Presumably what Mickey and Goofy meant when they briefed their sign writer was “Look, we gotta tell people to take the goddam sidewalk instead of jaywalking across the driveway.” What they ended up with was a blunt directive likely to prompt the puzzled reaction: ‘Er, utilize the sidewalk for what?’
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Help! Where did all these dumb words come from?

So, no-one has problems any more – they only have ‘issues’. As far as I can recall, this is one of the earliest examples of a stupid word displacing a perfectly good one. Had the, er, issue ended there, we might have lived with it, albeit through gritted teeth. But what the hell has happened? We’ve become so prim and proper that our language is now peppered with soft-soap euphemisms that have replaced everyday functional words now inexplicably deemed vulgar or inappropriate.

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Seven writing mistakes guaranteed to annoy your customers

Crafting the perfect customer letter or email can be tricky. Mass corporate communications are usually composed to tight deadlines yet often require delicate input from multiple business stakeholders. Even with the best intentions it can be easy for the importance of the customer experience to slip from top of mind in the sheer process of ‘getting a letter out’.

Nonetheless there are certain traits prevalent in many corporate communications that are unlikely to lead to happier customers and yet are easily avoided. Below are a few culprits that seem to crop up time and again.

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The five best things I learned doing a creative writing MA

As a novice, er, novelist, I got lucky. To no-one’s surprise so much as my own, I was accepted onto the MA Creative Writing (Research) program at the University of Technology Sydney, the output of which, five years later, was my novel Where There Is Darkness and a 10,000-word ‘exegesis’ (a word I had to look up in a dictionary upon starting the course).

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Ten corporate buzzwords you never want to hear again

Why do we walk into work on a Monday morning and leave the plain-English-speaking part of our brain outside in the street? Most of us use business jargon, to a greater or lesser extent.

But if we actually stop and think about it, anyone of sound mind would surely struggle to deny that most corporate-speak is pointless, confusing and downright annoying. Here are ten Category ‘A’ offenders.

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Why don’t the police talk like normal people?

Repeated exposure to television’s nightly round-up of crime, violence and human misery – a.k.a. the six o’clock news – leads me to wonder where police officers learn to talk. Is the abandonment of normal speech a critical part of their academy training? Continue Reading →

The best seat in the house

For the fourth year running, a seal has taken up seasonal residence on the steps of the Sydney Opera House. I don’t mean on the main front steps – the ones Crowded House perform on – but the narrow ones leading down to the little landing stage at the north-west tip of the Opera House forecourt. Luckily these steps are rarely in use, being reserved for visiting VIPs who arrive by water. Perhaps the royal barge moored there when the Queen opened the joint in 1973. Had a seal been in residence back then, it might have been evicted to make way for her. Or maybe the Queen would have deferred to the seal and ascended to the forecourt by another route, thus giving it the status of royal seal. Continue Reading →

Ten easy ways to fail on a TV cooking show

Television cooking show ‘season’ is upon us, so for one of my first blog posts I thought I’d offer some suggestions to those contestants (admittedly a minority) who from the opening scenes of the first episode give the impression that they suddenly wish they were somewhere else… Continue Reading →