Vox pop – January 2006

There have been several books published recently railing against the evils of jargon and management speak. Do you think there’s less of it in business writing now, or are things just as bad as ever?

Rishi Dastidar

Management speak is like a particularly nasty STI: despite effective remedies, it is always there even when you think you are clear, and can flare up again at the slightest provocation. Practitioners in the field should remind their patients that as well as a detrimental effect on those who come into contact with such words, their use has an impact closer to home – readers are likely to sense a poverty of thought, ill intentions behind obfuscatory language, and a general lack of humaneness. Prescriptions should always include a willingness to return email/memo/brief/report to transmitter of said jargon with a health warning attached; or a transfusion of simplicity, clarity and creativity.

Richard Owsley, Writers

Nothing seems to be able to stem the loathsome torrent of driving, delivering and leveraging on value propositions and core competencies. I used to think this was good news for my mortgage payments – so long as this nonsense proliferated, there would always be a need for translators (even if arriving at a meaningful rendition wasn’t always easy). And with English as the universal language of business, the world was my oyster. But now I’m beginning to fear this globalisation. The more I work for multinational corporations, the more I realise that they learn not standard English, but its bastard spawn. When my children reach working age they will need only three languages – Spanish, Mandarin Chinese, and Management Claptrap.

Anelia Schutte, The Writer

There’s no doubt that management speak is still rife. The difference now is that it’s finally being recognised – and publicly ridiculed – for the fact-shrouding hogwash that it really is. Why would any self-respecting manager want to sound like David Brent? Or be the brunt of a Boardroom Bingo game? On BBC2’s ‘Balderdash And Piffle’, Ian Hislop blamed the spread of management speak on the rise of management consultancies. But even the management consultancies are now becoming self-conscious about their jargon-riddled drivel. Just in the past year, The Writer has helped three such consultancies to exorcise their ‘paradigm shifts’ and ‘optimum work/life balances’. It’s like smoking. Some people might never quit the management-speaking habit. But it’s becoming increasingly anti-social.

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