Saturday, April 24, 2010

Empty Words

I read about the fabulous idea of Empty Miles on the PSFK website. There, is it described as:

“A site that matches a company’s trucks that are returning empty with another company’s potential cargo that can be collected and delivered along the return route."

Perfect.

But then I went to the Empty Miles website and read their opening line:

“Empty Miles is a powerful new online backhaul solution that enables a collaborative business process for identifying transportation efficiency opportunities between trading partners.”

Did anyone else fall asleep before they got to the end of that sentence?

Why do companies do that?

I’ve spent hours of my life rewriting copy for clients who write like they’ve swallowed a thesaurus, an engineering manual and an MBA text book, then vomited them all onto the page.

All business people should learn how to write in good, straight-forward, plain language. It’s just not that hard.

My tip to clients is usually to read your copy out loud then ask yourself, would you explain it like that to a friend in the pub? If not, then don’t write it down.

Or follow George Orwell’s 6 Rules for Good Writing, which are beautifully simple and relevant in all situations:

1. Never use a metaphor, simile, or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print.
2. Never use a long word where a short one will do.
3. If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out.
4. Never use the passive where you can use the active.
5. Never use a foreign phrase, a scientific word, or a jargon word if you can think of an everyday English equivalent.
6. Break any of these rules sooner than say anything outright barbarous.

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