I don’t know about you, but the more casual use of what seems to pass as professional writing these days has started to bother me. Certainly, we all adapt to language as it evolves (I didn’t get upset when “google” became an adjective, and I don’t break out in hives when otherwise good reporters use amazingly marvelous split infinitives). But I’ve noticed a lot of tangling, twisting, and general maligning of the English language in business writing these days, and it makes me queasy.
It seems the colloquial has slipped far too easily into sharp business writing today, and when our lexicon begins to slip into slang, it reflects badly on our American know-how; it will ultimately cost us, if it hasn’t already; and worse, it just makes us look bad (“bad,” as in uneducated, unprofessional, lazy, and stupid).
I might point out that “stupid” and “professional” are mutually exclusive. Yet on a daily basis, I find glaring errors in online press releases, Op/Ed pieces, and websites linked to magazines and newspapers of great renown that have shocked and embarrassed me.
It’s unsettling to read an article written by the editors of some of America’s top-notch news websites (who are these people? Fifth-grade spelling contest ribbon-holders)? that contain usage such as, “Its the national policy to…” “The unemployment rate continues to plumet,” and “Hes running a large company in the manufacturing industry but his daughters firm is gaining speed.” It’s just as horrific to attend a meeting among my own colleagues and watch a PowerPoint slide show in which “Allot of these percentages…” or some equally devastating phrase pollutes the screen in bright-blue, 78-point-type.
Of course, many will argue this point because they are merely the innocent products of this this “dumbing-down” virus that has crossed the globe with alarming efficiency.
So, to be fair, let’s create a comfortable middle ground here: Sir Winston Churchill was a staunch advocate of the English language, and as such, he was once quoted as saying, and I paraphrase, “This is the sort of thing up with which I shall not put!” to avoid the use of a preposition at the end of a sentence. OUCH! Nothing against Sir Winston, but in light of the number of words that seem to be slowly leaving our vocabulary, wouldn’t it be a better idea to consider the words we use do carefully before committing them to print? As the adage goes, “If you’re not sure, check your sources.”
Professional entrepreneurs are expected, by their self-professed titles, to be able to speak and write in complete, correct, and fully understandable English. This is good business; good business means good sales; good sales mean more money, and more money goes to those who know how to speak and write in a courteous, gracious, and apostrophe-perfect manner. It’s very simple, folks.
Would you buy a stunningly designed, perfectly cut diamond if the literature with which it came arrived with an army full of typos, run-on sentences and fragments, and nonsense phrases such as “Awesome Product! You’ve Got the Best!” or “Gotta have it now? Get it ta go!”?
Have we truly forgotten that time is, in fact, money, and that we are needlessly losing a large amount of money in business due to the overwhelming, over-hyped, media-infused mind-set that “anyone can be a writer?” Can we really meet the mortgage payments that way?
We should no more “dumb down” our writing than we should use an unnecessarily large, pedantic vocabulary. Just speak correctly, and consider your audience. Point out references and use materials in ways in which everyone will understand and no one will take offense. Don’t insult your potential customers’ sensibilities. How hard can that be?
Until Webster’s decides to include “omg,” “lmao,” or “ty” within its pages, I will continue to assume that silly, inept, junior-high-school abbreviations and incorrect usage in business writing, such as “abt,” “‘cuz,” “ur,” “gonna,” “I’m done,” “I’ve got,” “I’m having” and “gotta” are, in fact, nonsense. Nonsense doesn’t make the cut.
It’s a sad commentary on our society that we have come to the point at which we must defend our own language. Sir Winston, you saved us from the grips of the last Great War, but how pitifully ironic that you would not quite make the cut here anymore.