In a recent article (reg./subs required) the FT’s Lucy Kellaway finds Apple’s language to be as elegant and bewitching as its products. Reading the clear and funny App Store guidelines she notes that:
“Apple has discovered something that other companies have long forgotten, if they ever knew: language can also be beautiful and easy to use. Words can be fun to read. They can look elegant. They can make you laugh.”
Is this the beginning of a bright new dawn for business writing, in which everyone follows Apple to the broad sunlit uplands of clarity? Hardly, suggests Kellaway, going on to compare Apple’s bright words with Microsoft’s stodgy copy:
“It is one of the great mysteries of capitalism that there is no invisible hand that joins good language and good profits. If anything, the hand pushes the two apart”
It’s a fair observation. Plenty of successful firms write drivel. But would they be more successful if they didn’t? Take the first para of Microsoft’s press release announcing the Windows Phone 7:
“The goal for Microsoft’s latest smartphone is an ambitious one: to deliver a phone that truly integrates the things people really want to do, puts those things right in front of them, and either lets them get finished quickly or immerses them in the experience they were seeking.”
Huh? A gadget that lets me get finished with the things I really want to do right in front of me? C’mon guys, you’re up against the BlackBerry and the iPhone here! Get clarity!
Good copy may not correlate directly with profitability. But it surely has an impact on the way people feel about a company or a brand. As the queues of crazed fans at every new launch attest, people love Apple. Would people love Microsoft a little bit more – or even a little bit – if it spoke a language they could relate to?