Unfortunately, the book suffers the same problem as much of the corporate writing I come across in my work, according to the review in the Sydney Morning Herald.
The style is flat and cliched: he ”purchases” what he could just as easily buy, no one dies if he can ”pass away”, and the book is full of ”very special” people… Jacobson really shouldn’t give up his day job.
A simple test for corporatespeak
If there’s one thing I hope participants in my Writing for the Web course take away from the workshop, it’s this:
Use the words you’d use at home when talking to your kids.
Apply that test and you know:
- “Leverage” doesn’t sound better than “use”
- Nor does “utilize”
- A supplier is not a “third-party vendor” unless there’s a second party in your relationship
- A lesson isn’t a “learning”
The last time I ran the online writing course it was for the HR department of a university that was getting ready for its new intranet.
We talked about “subject matter experts”. What, I asked, is the difference between a “subject matter expert” and an “expert”? If I tell you I’m seeing an expert about my diet, do you think I’m seeing someone who could just as easily give me expert advice about my car, intergalactic travel or anything else I choose to ask about?
An expert is by definition someone who is recognised as especially knowledgeable in ”a specific well-distinguished domain”.
As a freelance journalist I’m often paid by the word. In that case “subject matter expert” would earn me three times as much money as “expert”. That, I would say, is the only excuse for turning one word into three.
Next time you’re tempted to write “leverage” write “use” instead. I promise you the sentence will look better.