“We will reshape how we interact with our customers, developers and key innovation partners, delivering a more coherent message and family of product offerings. The evangelism and business development team will drive partners across our integrated strategy and its execution. Our marketing, advertising and all our customer interaction will be designed to reflect one company with integrated approaches to our consumer and business marketplaces”
(CEO memo to all Microsoft employees)
People tend to call this kind of writing management-speak (or worse); it often irritates them, regardless of what it’s trying to say.
But what’s actually wrong with it, technically? Well, there are far more nouns than verbs – that’s a big clue.
“Our great team of 40 staff, also passionate about the product on a personal level, ensure a complete service is delivered in-house. Our diverse range of customers include families looking for a safer vehicle for every day use, tree surgeons, farmers, extreme offroad adventurer's, sports enthusiasts, world traveller's to far flung places – anyone who values 4x4 Land Rover's for their unique character, charm and durability”
(Website of high-spec 4x4 vehicle specialist)
This 4x4 centre want to convey their enthusiasm and expertise – but all that has disappeared in loose, unfocused, salesy language.
Some specifics: what does “in-house” actually mean here? Similarly, what shall we call our team? Oh yeah, let’s call them a “great” team.
Poor grammar puts the icing on the cake.
You've connected an Android device to Dropbox. Awesome!
You can check on this and any other devices you've connected by visiting your account page.
- The Dropbox Team
The impression created by this email is distinctive – young, non-British, being cool. Probably right for Dropbox, wrong for someone like British Gas.
But it’s short, pithy, informative and offers a link in case of need. It knows what it is trying to convey.
“This is your chance to join an exclusive team of ScottishPower customers specially selected to share their views and provide feedback in ScottishPower’s exciting online community ‘Tell the Energy People’.
By joining ScottishPower’s Tell the Energy People community, not only will you have a vital role in helping to shape ScottishPower’s services to you, but you will also have the chance to win prizes and receive rewards.
The more you contribute to ‘Tell the Energy People’, the more you can help ScottishPower - and the more chance you have of winning!”
(Invitation email to Scottish Power customer)
There is a tonal confusion here – do they want this to come across as a way for customers to give the company feedback, or a fabulous chance to win exclusive prizes? At the moment it’s trying to do both – which makes it hard to read.
It’s like talking to someone who’s looking over your shoulder.