Mindworks’ Weblog

Thinking Matters

Choosing the right words

Posted by Andrew Cooper on July 23, 2008

I’ve always been keen on plain English.  Some years ago I wrote a Consultantese/English dictionary, copies of which are available from me for the price of an email.  I updated it in 2004 to include some of the new management jargon which appeared on the scene at the turn of the millenium.  These included talking about ‘issues’ rather than ‘problems’ (see one of my first posts) and the tendency for things to ‘move forward’, which I’ve already mentioned.  Here’s an extract from the introduction to the 2004 edition:

“… management jargon is particularly pernicious. It is often redundant or tautologous as in ‘our plan, moving forward ….’, as if there was any other kind of plan and frequently misleading – ‘human resources’ to describe people, for example. Sometimes it is just annoying – the verb form of partner – ‘partnering’ – perhaps being my least favourite. Compare these sentences:

Moving forward we will tackle procurement issues by forging new partnering arrangements with trusted suppliers.’

We have had problems with suppliers in the past so will buy things from companies we can rely on in the future.’

If you were, say, writing your company’s annual report why would you choose the former? (Not that you would even think of it, of course, but we all know people who write like this in their sleep.)” … and so on.

One of the reasons that language is important is that it’s central to how we think.  Imagine inventing a nuclear powered tea pot without having the words ‘nuclear powered’ and ‘tea pot’ in your head.  Difficult, isn’t it?

Fuzzy language leads to fuzzy thinking.  Or worse, no thinking at all.

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