This blog shares some of our thoughts about plain language, and the latest discussions about plain English and clear design in New Zealand, and around the world.

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23 May 2013

Why jargon isn’t thinking outside the box

‘Thinking outside the box’ probably sounded very cool the first time someone said it in a meeting room.

Jargon genesis
You can see the scene. The large meeting table. The stale air. The cold coffee. The sense of mild desperation.

The guy in charge (forgive me — I’m thinking in stereotypes) says, 'People, we have to think outside the box here' and the meeting is galvanised. The execs depart inspired. They have a bounce in their step.

'Think outside the box. That's really powerful,' they all think. And whenever they can, they try to conjure up some of the magic from that meeting. They say, 'think outside the box'.

Others like it too. It spreads like a virus, corporate to corporate. A new piece of jargon is born.

Language in the long term
When you read it in a report in 15 years time, ‘thinking outside the box’ will sound just as dated as the buzzwords of the 1990s — no longer flavour of the month. The report will lose a little of its relevance, and the writer a little of their authority.

Have the courage to think originally — outside the box. Write the plain phrases that have stood the test of time. In your choice of words, be sincere and be timeless.

Because when you say ‘think outside the box’, you’re talking inside the box.

14 May 2013

Working with people's different learning styles

We've been enjoying our partnership with Trish Stonestreet of Maygrove Management. Trish and Write trainer Helen Wise together offer Authenticity — Training for Trainers.

A topic that often comes up on Trish's workshops is how to work effectively with people's different learning styles. In recent posts on her own blog, Trish offers some helpful tips for helping kinesthetic learners get the most out of training.

Tips from Trish on working with kinesthetic learners

And in this post she offers information on other learning styles:

More about other learning styles

Reserve your place on Authenticity - Training for Trainers

06 May 2013

Regarding 'regards'

I hate the word 'regards'.

'I'm ringing you regards your claim...'
 'Re: your concerns about our re-widgeting service'
 'Regarding our conversation yesterday...'

Whatever’s coming next, I think, it won’t be good news. The tone sets my teeth on edge. It just sounds like a word you'd use in an earlier age, perhaps the 1930s, when it might have sounded both suave and deferential.

The time for ‘regards’ has gone, I think. To me, it sounds like the rote mutterings of a bureaucratic zombie. Something said by someone who feels defensive, perhaps powerless, and wants to hide behind words to and stick to the script, no matter (regardless) of what they’re really thinking.

Write as you'd really talk
Who says 'regards' when they're having a brew (hot or cold...) with a friend? Or talking with their 10-year-old child?

If we want our writing to connect with our readers, we need to use the direct words we’d use when we’re talking. Really talking. So why not just say 'about'? ‘Even though’?

Okay, I've got that off my chest. Thank you for reading. So what's your least favourite word?

Oh, one more thing. A colleague of mine in London once said ‘irregardless’. Gentle reader, I simply gaped.