THE PLAIN TEXT GAZETTE – Issue 1, September 2001
* Welcome to the Plain Text Gazette
* When communication doesn’t #1: duelling press releases
* Help us to build the directory of business-speak
Welcome to the Plain Text Gazette
The Plain Text Gazette is an occasional email newsletter edited by Paul Nero and Paul Waddington, the founders of Plain Text, and sent to their customers, contacts and newsletter subscribers.
It will frequently be highly opinionated, sometimes rude, occasionally funny, and, hopefully, it will always contain something of use to anyone interested in improving communication in business.
In this issue we set out our stall with a bit of editorial, then look at two different ways of presenting the same information as a press release. Finally, we ask for your help in beginning Plain Text’s own ‘living dictionary’ of business-speak.
If you would like to comment, complain, contribute, or just have a rant, email us at [email protected].. Please feel free to forward this newsletter to anyone you think might like it. It is, after all, merely a transparent ploy to get more people interested in what it is we do. In the meantime, read on, and enjoy.
Have you ever had that feeling during a business presentation that you would like to eat off your own limbs, such is the crushing boredom to which you are being submitted? Or have you ever read a press release that is so appallingly laden with meaningless jargon and euphemism that no human being could possibly have written it? Or perhaps you have had the misfortune to read a ‘white paper’ – masquerading as a genuinely informative document – that is little more than a lengthy and tedious sales brochure.
If you have, then not only have you ended up feeling – at best – mildly annoyed, you have also completely failed to respond to whatever message it was that the messenger wanted you to get.
It is an obvious but widely-ignored fact (and it’s certainly a bad pun) that *text sells*. Many companies forget this, seeing presentations and documents as a way of trying to cram as many facts, features, and buzzwords into their audiences’ heads as quickly as possible. What they overlook, of course, is that our heads are not designed to absorb information in this way.
We like stories, anecdotes, and examples. We like to be amused and entertained. We hate other people’s jargon. We can’t read 20 bullet points on a screen 110 feet away. And even if we could, mostly, we don’t want to.
We at Plain Text are angry about this. Not because it means companies don’t get their message over: that’s their problem, and the solution is, of course, to hire us. No, we’re angry because bad communication makes business boring, and business should not be boring. We all have to do it every weekday, and it should be as interesting as possible.
So we hope the Plain Text Gazette will go a little way towards relieving business tedium, as well as being occasionally useful.
Keep it plain,
I have never edited a trade magazine, but I have seen a lot of business press releases. My sympathies go out to those besieged editors around the world who have to deal with the double horror of picking out the ones that matter, and *then* trying to interpret what on earth it is they mean.
Rather than producing lengthy and tedious guidelines on this subject, I am going to do what Plain Text likes doing best: let words speak for themselves.
Below are two versions of the same press release. No prizes for guessing which is the most commonly-used style. Apologies in advance to any companies I may have slighted by inadvertently inventing a name or a technology similar to theirs…
Press release – draft 1
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Prolix announces VPL-compatible integration management module with upgraded scalability potential
London, UK 6 September 2001 – Prolix, the global integration management leadership technology solutions provider, today announced the release of WA4L(TM), a VPL-compatible integration management module for complex disparate systems. Leveraging the power of Base-Level Architecture Hierarchies BLAH(SM), WA4L(TM) enables enterprise-wide integration management with enhanced scalability for information-driven organisations.
“Successful, timely, accurate, scalable, robust, flexible, and extensible integration management architectures are essential to today’s enterprises, especially those with complex disparate systems’ said Max Wordcount, Prolix CEO. Using the power of BLAH(SM) and WA4L(TM), I believe that Prolix has established an unrivalled industry benchmark for integration management that provides an immense range of benefits for information-intensive enterprises. WA4L(SM) will be of particular benefit to enterprises with wide-area VPL implementations that have under-leveraged synergies and ongoing scalability implications.”
Gunter Verböss, chair of the cross-border Forum for Leadership in Integration Management Foundation’s Local Area Management committee (FLIMFLAM), commented: “FLIMFLAM is very excited by WA4L(TM) and BLAH(SM). Prolix are enabling the transmission of cross-sector-scale benefits to the integration management industry, and helping us to push the envelope of benchmark-establishment. The complex disparate systems integration community will also welcome this development.”
WA4L(TM) is available with immediate effect for cross-geography shipping and dissemination.
Prolix is the global integration management leadership technology solutions provider. Its proprietary BLAH(SM) technology, combined with leading-edge integration management applications such as WA4L(TM) and PR8(TM), and supported by its state-of-the-art BLEtherNet infrastructure, enables information-intensive enterprises to fully leverage their existing information and technology assets in a flexible, extensible, scalable, and managed process.
Press release – draft 2
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Does waffle help companies make money?
Award-winning software developer Prolix has today released WA4L(TM), an innovative programme that helps companies to integrate different computer systems easily. WA4L(TM) takes care of integration no matter how many systems a company has, or how much they grow, removing at a stroke the immense effort needed to keep them working together.
Prolix customer Ian Tegratian, IT director of Exasystems, explained: “WA4L(TM) may have a silly name but it has been fantastically useful for us. Before we installed it, routine, repetitive integration management tasks were taking up far too of my department’s time. And no-one enjoyed them. We are now all free to do what we do best: coming up with creative ways to make Exasystems products more competitive. We’re already seeing an upturn in orders.”
Max Relevance, COO of Prolix, added: “It’s great to see results already from our new product. Our experience so far indicates that investment in WA4L(TM) can pay itself back in two months and start contributing to the bottom line in three. This is a first for this type of software, and it would not have been possible without involving customers like Ian in the development process. So yes, it would seem that WA4L can help companies make money!”
Prolix helps companies to integrate different computer systems so that they can get the most out of their IT investments. Its products have won ‘Best in show’ at the prestigious GoodSoft awards for the last two years, and are used by 120 organisations worldwide, including 25 of the UK’s FTSE-100 companies.
New flagship product WA4L(TM) is based on Prolix’s proprietary BLAH(SM) (Base-level architecture hierarchies) technology, which creates a platform for automating the integration of different systems. Smaller sites can achieve similar benefits with the PR8(SM) product, whilst all Prolix customers can take advantage of its secure infrastructure called BLEtherNet.
Help us to build the directory of business-speak
And finally – we need help. This may be obvious after having read the Gazette, however there is something in it for you. Remember how much we enjoyed those three-column ‘buzz-phrase generators’ allegedly first brought to prominence by Newsweek in 1968? (The ones which, for example, enable you to create meaningless phrases like ‘systematised logistical capability’?)
Well, we at Plain Text think there is a gap in the market for an up-to-date directory of business-speak.
Not only would such a listing have potential entertainment value – as we gleefully recognise all of those phrases that only our colleagues use – it could serve as an essential reference to help us understand them, and a useful way of saving us from falling into the same trap.
We haven’t started it yet – it starts today – but here are some examples to get you in the mood.
Bottom out – Get to the heart of the matter
Execute on – Do
Make a judgement call – Decide
Window – Space in diary for appointment
Streamline – Reduce (especially headcount)
Monetise – Make money out of
Sample paragraph: ‘Let’s bottom this issue out. Then we can touch base with Finance, and make a judgement call. If HR have a window soon, we can start to streamline the human capital, leaving us free to execute on this strategy and really start to monetise our assets.’
To contribute your ideas, please email [email protected]
So that’s it for this month. We’ll be back in October with more business-speak and some more thoughts on business communication.
© Plain Text Ltd 2002 all rights reserved