I learned what irritates business people most a few weeks ago. It's jargon. In fact a few years ago I read that over 25 per cent of business executives admitted to using jargon they didn't understand in meetings.
No wonder, then, that when it comes to selling technological things, so many messages dissolve into a sort of linguistic swamp.
Here's a good example from an e-mail someone sent me:
At Blah-co we have just developed an email stationery online software package that allows one in house member of staff to deploy all email users with a professionally designed Email stationery template, designed by one of our team of designers to all users and to include their unique contact details, meaning not only will the presentation of their emails improve but equally as important all be consistent throughout your organisation. (whew!)
Because of the way the templates are constructed our solutions avoid all types filtering ensuring your mail always arrives.
Well, I think I understand the beginning and the end and recognise all the words but I'm damned if I know what they mean when put together.
More incomprehensible blather
Here's another series of examples extracted from mailings sent by another firm.
"Are you one of those lucky few who have bedded down IT operations?"
"Would you realise a significant increase in business agility, accelerated decision making, employees pursuing a common agenda and a heightened awareness of your strategy?"
"Miss or ignore priority system availability or leadership messages"
"Adopting a new change driver that communicates change and strategy in a high impact and engaging way"
"Intranets suffer the limitations of pull technology"
"A controlled feedback channel enables you to capture a snapshot of employee morale in real time"
"Cascade this down to your people"
They actually have something great to sell, so we tried to translate their stuff into English.
What that piffle means in English
Every day, you send tens, hundreds, maybe thousands of e-mails to people who want or need to hear from you.
Maybe they're your colleagues, your customers, your employees or your prospects: many may actually have asked to hear from you.
Then what happens?
Your "wanted" messages get lost in a sea of Spam. So the poor recipients go through the infuriating task of fishing out what really interests them from all that rubbish.
A **** sends your messages on a different route. One that avoids the traffic jams. It's a desktop alert that jumps onto your screen no matter what you're doing. You can't ignore it; it appears whether you're onscreen or off.
And that's why firms as varied as Sky, Arsenal Football Club. Kelloggs and Warner Brothers use them.
Winston Churchill said, "Use simple words everyone knows, then everyone will understand."
This is important especially if you're selling a financial or technical product or service. Use a bit of jargon to reassure the anoraks, but put the rest in plain English.
Why things go wrong
Confucius said that if language is used incorrectly, what is said is not what is meant, everything goes to pot and "the people stand about in helpless confusion".
If you wish for a few text-book cases, consider the National Health Service or the police force.
On the other hand, if you actually relish a little chaos, you need the economy bullshit generator. Click here and give it a go. It will add a welcome touch of drivel to your meetings.