Lifestyle Fashion

Business communication writing skills benefit from originality and media-based marketing training

Posted by admin

From the attic chamber an unearthly howl. The whole scene had a creepy, surreal quality, like when you’re on vacation in another city and Jeopardy comes at 7:00 p.m. instead of 7:30.”

~ anonymous high school essay

Greetings. Thanks for indulging me with yet another example of analogies collected by high school English teachers. I do it because the language we all share is a treasure chest of words that in an odd combination can make us smile, laugh, even laugh out loud. And, like Larry the Cat, whose home we share and whose antics are just plain silly, the best humor is unintentional humor.

Still, the above blunder was the result of a sincere, if immature, effort to be original and evocative. Good for him or her, I say. At least the brain has been compromised. But what about the way we adults fall for a superficial “copycat” when communicating in a professional setting? And how does that reflect on you and your business communications when you mindlessly insert those phrases into text or emails on your website? Do you really want to sound like a faceless, unimaginative bureaucrat when it comes to writing skills?

Here with some inaugural entries in my Language Hall of Shame:

o Negative impact, as in “The fact that we haven’t made a single clip that actually holds two sheets of paper is negatively affecting our sales performance.” First of all, “impact” became a verb only about 30 years ago, although the verbs “affect” or “influence” worked quite well. But now that it’s here, why compound the damage by adding an awkward adverb (colleague Mainer Stephen King said in his book on writing, “The adverb is not your friend”)? Why not rely on unambiguous, active, space-saving standbys like “damage” or “damage” instead?

o Core competencies, as in “Our core competencies include a flexible attitude about quality control and a collective tendency to extend lunch breaks beyond normal parameters because we adhere to the principle of saving personal energy.” Does anyone realize that by using the adjective “basic” to define “skills”, you are implying that you have other “skills” that might not be so “basic”? And that a careful reader might deduce that those other skills might actually be mediocre, or at least rather pedestrian? Here’s a solution, in plain language: “What we do best is…” or “Our reputation is built on how…” or “We’re known for…”

I mention this because I don’t doubt that your readers are critical thinkers (at least that’s what I tell my writing seminar students to expect), which means they’ll see phrases like “core competencies” as lazy, unproductive thinking.

o Skill sets, as in “Our employees can bring the most unique skill set to finding a solution to your problem, which is why we consider ourselves a high-end company that can justify charging you extra for our services.” First of all, it cannot be “most exclusive” because “unique” means one of a kind. I used to think that nonsense was restricted to sports broadcast booths, but now I see it on websites, which was probably unavoidable.

Anyway, I ask you: What’s wrong with using only “abilities”? How can adding “sets” add anything other than the useless appendage of another four-letter word? If you use “skill sets,” ask yourself, “Why? What have I gained beyond the obvious tendency to mindlessly imitate others?”

The media… not always nosy nosy

“Literature is the art of writing something that will be read twice; journalism what will be captured once.”

— Cyril Connolly, English writer

Learning to deal with the press constructively does not have to be limited to traditional definitions of news. In fact, some realistic role playing in a media training environment can help you frame and sharpen your message for business purposes. That’s where I can be of help. As a former newspaper and magazine reporter, I like to know how things work and what sets them apart. Then I try to convey what I’ve learned in succinct prose, as Connolly pointed out.

Let me describe the type of training that I do. A couple of years ago, a savvy Maine nurse devised a blend of four scented oils that she said eased first-trimester morning sickness, chemotherapy, and motion sickness. To help with the marketing, I asked him the questions a reporter for the business section of a newspaper or magazine might ask. I then wrote an article on “aromatherapy” from her, which we discussed in detail for lessons learned.

The result? She and her marketing and investment partners came away from the exercise with a much clearer vision of how the public would perceive her unusual product. The questions she asked were born of a healthy skepticism, and she said that she planned to adjust her tone accordingly.

Leave A Comment