It is no secret that many stories in news publications begin with a news release. The plus side of this phenomenon is some news comes to us. The bad news is that useful portions of news releases frequently are ensconced in business language.
An example - and this example has been fabricated so as not to offend any people who take the time and care to write overwrought, yet well-intentioned, news releases:
To the loquacious and handsome intern at Plastics News:
Galactic Plastics Inc. Corp. GmbH, formerly Galactic Plastics Co., is pleased to announce a strategic partnership with Interstellar Polymers Corp. LLC Ltd. Together, we can create synergies that will allow us both to reach our ultimate goal of maximizing capabilities and product realization. As allies, we will be enabled to utilize each other's facilities and faculties.
President, CEO, Chairman and General Manager of Galactic Buddy Swindell said, ``The strategic alliance will increase our customer placation and multitasking tenfold. Our new system by far surpasses our old system in vision and efficiency.''
Terms of the strategic alliance will not be disclosed.
I exaggerate (a little), and arguably some business writers are as guilty for perpetuating this language. But I suggest an embargo on platitudes, cliches and other jargon writing. Some ground rules:
* Don't say utilize. Whenever you have the urge to write ``utilize,'' stop, count to 10 and write ``use'' instead.
* Don't write about a ``strategic'' anything. One can assume your company's plan of action was selected with a modicum of strategy. Until we start receiving news releases that say, ``Our expansion was dictated by the Chief Executive Ouiji Board,'' we'll assume your course of action was informed.
* Try to limit the job titles. CEO is fine, as is president; but there is no need to give an executive four different titles. (You can call yourself whatever you want on your nameplate. I own one that says I'm a private investigator named Finn MaCool.)
* If your company has changed its name more than twice in the past year, I am no longer accountable for misprinting it. It's hard enough keeping track of these resin names (tripolyisopropylestermethylamide, anyone?) without corporations altering their titles.
* If you feel the need to give us ``canned'' quotes, make sure you're saying something quotable. Don't tell us that your new [insert cause for news release here] is ``revolutionary.'' Tell us why or how it's important. Better yet, let us talk to your executives instead of getting pre-packaged quotes. Yeah, I know, you're busy people; but tapioca statements aren't going to drum up any interest.
In conclusion, be clear. Since we're already talking about processes, machines, monomers and money, it's easy to overwhelm stories with jargon even if we're not using cloaked or imprecise language. There is no easier way to say ``seven-layer coextruder'' or ``polyolefin,'' but one day I will find a better way to say ``turn debt to equity.'' I'm still not sure what that last one means.
Jason Lea just finished a 12-week internship as a reporter at Plastics News' Akron, Ohio, office.