The Four Languages of Failure

“languages which often get between us and our audience”


〱 Back to Life Stuff

An author on business writing (Tom Sant) describes four languages of failure which often get between us and our audience:

1. FLUFF “The language of grand claims, vague assertions and hype.”

Example:

Your project will be facilitated by our extremely talented and highly meticulous customer representatives.

Better:

Your project is in good hands.

2. GUFF “The language of the bureaucrat. Needlessly complex, pompous and dense.”

Example:

A brief meeting will be held in Conference Room B to address the consequences and implications with regard to the adoption of new policies for travel reimbursement and associated issues and the effect of their implementation on our division.

Better:

Meet Room B 11:00 – 11:30 New travel pay-out policy and what it means to our division.

3. GEEK “Language which is too technical or obscure.”

Example:

Me: I’m interested in buying a new TV.
Geek: You want plasma or LCD?
Me: Sorry?
Geek: Plasma or LCD?
Me: I don’t know. Which is better?
Geek: Depends. You looking for high def or just HD ready? DLP or ETV. You want six by nine or four by three?
Me: Eh? I’ll go and buy it online.

4. WEASEL “Language that sounds wishy-washy or even sneaky. Politician’s speak.”

Example:

I had no knowledge of this — of the planning, the execution or anything about it — and that I first found out about it after it was over,” he said. “And even then, what I was told was that it was a traffic study.

As an example, consider two copy writing approaches highlighted in Lucy Kellaway’s Golden Flannel Awards in the FT:

A>> Winner for the award of “Chief obfuscation champion” (COC). Rob Stone, CEO of Cornerstone “As brands build out a world footprint, they look for the no-holds-barred global POV that’s always been part of our wheelhouse.”

B>> Winner of the “Flannel-free award”. Wan Long, founder of Shuanghui International and a global leader in the pork chop space: “What I do is kill pigs and sell meat.”

Colleen Backstrom

Director of Kaleidoscope NeuroMarketing for Email Marketing & Website Design


Advertising Agency Cape Town

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