Tag Archives: English language

Let’s Cure This Epidemic

I had another topic on my mind this morning, but I’m going to go on a rant about carelessness instead. I’m sure that many of you read as many, if not more, articles and emails as I do. Have you noticed that we are in the midst of an epidemic of carelessness? I don’t mean with the “facts” many writers pass off as gospel. I’m talking about something far more basic: spelling and grammar.

I know English is a difficult language, even for those of us who are native speakers. Spelling, however, isn’t. Of course, one needs to take the time to check not just the spelling of a word but also if the correct homonym is being used. It’s not just individuals either. I see lots of corporate “content” that contains errors of the same sort. Social media, white papers, blogs and tweets are overrun with misused and misspelled words.  As a former broadcaster, I wince at every graphic that contains a typo.  You just know that more than one person looked at it (or should have) before the error ever saw the light of day.

I hope it’s carelessness and not ignorance. I’m pretty sure it is – what politician would spell “education” as “edutation” or “America” as “Amercia” out of anything other than carelessness? That carelessness makes me think you’re careless about everything, including how you will protect my data, my credit card information, and how you will service your customers.  I’m fed up with “it’s” being used as a possessive (it’s a contraction!).  I hate “your” preceding “welcome” (it should be a contraction – you’re!).

I admit to being an optimist, so I’m assuming we’re not all just idiots.  Most of us feel a time crunch and sometimes rush to meet a deadline.  It’s not a new sickness, as you can see from the clever 2013 Snickers ad, but it’s time we cured it.  Let’s be careful out there!

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Straight Talk

There generally aren’t a lot of laughs available while reading the Sports Business Journal. On occasion there’s head-shaking; other times there’s amazement. Laughter? Not so much. Yesterday, however, I got a great laugh out of Terry Lefton’s column. Terry writes about sports marketing and is always a good read. His column entitled Time for some straight talk on marketing jargon – isn’t it? struck a topic that’s near and dear to me and makes a great point whether you’re in the sports business or not.

Every business has a vocabulary.  Doctors ask for forceps, not the “scissor-thingee”.  A short-order cook would respond to “two ruined with breath” and deliver 2 scrambled eggs with onions.  Obviously the language of the web – servers, routers, HTML, CSS, etc. is not widely understood outside of the digital world but makes communication possible within it.

That said, Terry does a great job of pointing out often the language that is used to provide clarity can also be used to obfuscate.  Whether it’s listening to a vendor pitch a product or to someone explaining why their strategy is a great idea, I’m always concerned when a lot of the language is the inbred vernacular that has neither real meaning nor for which there is a need.  I guess they’re just trying to establish their bona fides by using it, although I can rattle off legal language but it doesn’t make me a lawyer.

You must learn the language of business – that of your specific field as well as business in general.  However, learning how and when to use it is just as important as the vocabulary itself.  Otherwise, we end up with a situation like the one below, that Terry lays out far better than I can:

Even though the thicket of vernacular has become a pandemic problem, that doesn’t mean we’re ready to punt. After all, this could be a new benchmark. Still, optimization could be mission critical, since we’re a bit above our pay grade here.  Holistically speaking, if we can monetize this, it could be the best cross-platform paradigm since disintermediation.  Actually, it’s unclear that we have a clear line of sight on this, but ping me; we’ll calendar some time, ideate some scenarios, and hopefully move the needle. And we’ve gotten this far without even mentioning the obvious need for consumer-facing synergies.  So let’s add some bandwidth and let time be the variable; that’s the only way to ensure that this goes three-deep. At the end of the day, it is what it is.

So now that I’ve run that up the flagpole, are you saluting?

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Speaking The Language

Enoki, Buna-shimeji, Bunapi-shimeji, king oyst...

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Given the number of times I come back from dining out and end up writing about it here, I’m thinking that maybe we should eat at home all the time. Many folks go out just for food; I seem to go out for food for thought.
In any event, we went to a local Chinese place where we’ve eaten many times. To us it’s very much like some of the best places we enjoy in Chinatown in NYC. The decor isn’t much but the food usually is. Getting the food, however, can be a challenge and it reminded me of another business point I’d like to share with you. Continue reading

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Welcome to the Machine

roundel adopted by Royal Canadian Air Force, f...

An important lesson in a very brief post. There’s a story in the Toronto Sun this morning about how Hockey Canada’s official French web site is full of translation errors. The blame is being placed on the fact that the site was sub-contracted out. Reading between the lines, and having been down the French translation road a few times myself, I know that there’s a temptation to use software to do the translation or to employ a non-native speaker. Continue reading

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We all use them even though we shouldn’t. They’re the fast food of language use – cliches. While I could spend another few hundred words writing about people who fit that description, today I’m going to focus on the non-human kind.

Cliches have their uses. Native speakers of a language instantly understand your meaning when you use them. Of course, there are regional and generational gaps in that notion.  Even as some folks try to use them to make them selves clear they wind up becoming less clear by the use of cliches. People may understand your words but not your intent.

At first blush, you might say I’m off base but let’s give it the old college try (no, dummy – quit while you’re ahead). You want to sit tall in the saddle when you write and speak? Don’t gild the lily with cliches. You’ll cut the mustard with your readers who won’t feel as if they’ve bought a pig in a poke –  it will speak volumes about you, and hopefully they’ll go to school on your well-crafted writing.

Do you think something fishy is going on?  Something’s rotten in Denmark?  Do I speak with a forked toungue?  Don’t split hairs.  Get down to brass tacks, to the nitty gritty – let me know what you think.

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Learn The Language

Illustration of a scribe writing

Today we revisit my roots as an English teacher. I know – hard to believe, right? Well, this old teacher is mortified by the state of writing across the web. Not that I expect everyone to be Hemingway or even Hunter Thompson. But I’m not talking about style or even substance. It’s the grammar, stupid. Continue reading

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