Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

‘Worst Writing Awards’: Read and chuckle? Or shout in shared frustration?

April 27, 2010

The Center for Plain Language’s worst writing awards debuted this week. And made instant headlines, with “official” statements from government and businesses that confound readers, kill credibility and worse.

You know the type. The in-flight immigration form that says “Type or print legibly.” The guidelines for students that note, “These guidelines may not actually be in effect.”  How about the bank statement that warns: “We may charge no less than the minimum interest charge if any periodic interest charge is due for a billing cycle”? (All award winners this year.)

The Center’s founder, Anetta Cheek, was a quarter-century Federal employee. “I just got so tired of all that bureaucratic and legalistic writing,” she told NPR yesterday, noting that poor communication causes needless expense and can prevent people from getting information, services and benefits they need..

“I think writing is one of those things that needs an expert,” she said. “Particularly when you have a team of technical people and legal people, a critical third member of that team is someone who knows how to write clearly. And very often that team member is not there at all.”

I say, “Here, Here!” to the Center for its effort to — as NPR put it — shame governments and companies into communicating better.”


New Inverted Pyramid for a New Decade

January 3, 2010

“A lot of us have seen or lived the organizational chart of the last century,” writes U2 lead singer Bono in today’s New York Times. In that model, he explains, power and influence are concentrated in the uppermost point of the pyramid and pressure is exerted downward.

But in this new century, the pyramid is being inverted, he says. “Increasingly, the masses are sitting at the top, and their weight, via cellphones, the Web and the civil society and democracy these technologies can promote, is being felt by those who have traditionally held power.”

What a clear, concise observations about the economic and political power inherent in social media (and written without using the term – so overused in 2009)!

Here’s to embracing the new “cyber democracy,” and as business communicators, to helping it evolve in ways that improve the clarity, accuracy, overall quality and usefulness of what’s being put out there.  As Bono notes elsewhere in his column (read at, “Trust in capitalism — we’ll find a way.”

Happy New Year.