Why Business People Speak Like Idiots: A Bullfighter’s Guide

Dull, verbose, evasive language that disguises empty-headed clichés with jargon-drenched hype is pilloried in this diverting indictment of everyday business-speak. The authors are consultants, and their familiarity with the subject, enhanced through their side job peddling “Bullfighter” anti-jargon software, gives their irreverent critique a funny, knowing edge. Besides ridiculing some ripe samples of corporate pseudo-communication, they offer advice on the art of “persuasion” in every genre, from the humble e-mail to the shareholders’ address, and throw in tips on public speaking, dress and deportment. Much of their advice-keep things concrete and specific, talk about what your audience is interested in-is fine, but some suggestions, like spicing up corporate presentations with ethnic humor, sexual innuendo and mild profanity, are certain to backfire. The authors also open themselves to their own critique. They throw around buzzwords like “authenticity,” vapid clichés like “being you is all you’ll ever need” and meaningless hype like “one-quarter of the gross domestic product is linked to persuasion.” One of their recommendations for making presentations “spontaneous” and “personal” is to download anecdotes from an anecdote Web site. An injunction to brevity is translated into a mindless bean-counting formula proscribing sentences longer than 21 words (a figure derived from the “Flesch Reading Ease Scale”). And while they complain that “technology…makes it too convenient to automate the one part of business that should never be outsourced: our voice,” their signature remedy for turgid, jargon-riddled prose is to run it through their anti-jargon computer program. The authors deliver a scintillating diagnosis of the problems in business communications, but sometimes their cure for the disease is the disease.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

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