You probably already know that corporate waffle isn’t going to help you attract more clients (and if you need a steer, read my blog Corporate bluster: why it’s so damaging for your business)
But when you’ve been staring at your marketing material for yonks, it’s sometimes hard to spot the bluster in the wild. So here’s a handy checklist of things to look out for, and strip out of your copy.
Formal, grandiose language
Lots of businesses like to use formal words like ‘leverage’, or ‘implement’ or ‘utilise’. They think it makes them sound more professional. But it has the effect of making you sound pompous, confusing or (possibly worse) boring.
Let’s take for example, this piece of copy:
We are dedicated to adding social value wherever we operate. We work in partnership with customers, colleagues and suppliers to reduce our collective burden on the environment and we leverage our reach as a global employer to advance social mobility.
What does that really mean? How do you add ‘social value’? That’s not really a term we recognise in every day language.
‘Leveraging our reach’ possibly sounds a little manipulative. Or at least sounds like something you’d say at a board meeting when you don’t really have a point to make but you want to sound impressive anyway.
And ‘advancing social mobility’ doesn’t really make sense when you think about it. Your reader shouldn’t have to think about your copy. If they have to think too hard, you’ve lost their attention.
This paragraph could be stripped down to its essence: “We care about improving the lives of people in our local communities.” That’s more honest, less fanfare, and more impactful.
This is a big one.
Corporates love to squeeze a lot of information into one sentence in the hope that they sound succinct. But less is not always more. Sometimes you have to explain an idea before moving on to the next bit.
Our number one goal is always clarity. On some occasions, that means succinct. But on others, that means adding explanation.
Let’s take this sentence:
The implementation of electronic access control systems and CCTV cameras further bolsters their monitoring capabilities, fortifying overall security measures.
Does that mean anything to you? I had to read it a few times to have any idea of what it really meant. With the benefit of the context, I came up with this instead:
Access control systems can disable when the fire alarm sounds. This creates a security risk amid the potential confusion of an emergency situation. You can mitigate this risk with well-trained security teams. Once they’re aware that the sounding of an alarm can pose a security risk, they are on guard against suspicious activities.
There are more words. But it’s easier to understand what it’s getting at.
Illogical temporal structures
Your copy is easier to follow when you write in a straight line. By that I mean, follow a logical time flow. Be very careful with using phrases like ‘prior to’ (also needlessly formal) and ‘before’.
Here’s an example:
Prior to implementing emergency preparedness measures, conducting a comprehensive risk assessment specific to the facility is imperative. This assessment enables the identification of potential emergency scenarios such as fires, natural disasters, or security breaches.
It’s all a little topsy turvy and difficult to follow. Instead, a better version of this would be:
The first step is to prepare a thorough risk assessment of the facility. Think about what happens in the event of fire, a natural disaster, or security breaches.
Write in sequence. If you’re using ‘prior to’ then the reader has to jump back and forward in their mental picture, which adds an extra layer of unnecessary complication.
Turning verbs into nouns
For my grammar geeks out there (*salute*) this is known as ‘nominalisation’. But using a noun where a perfectly good verb should go instead, makes your copy clunky. Here’s an example:
A provider of critical and essential services in organisations around the world, every day we set out to help our customers.
It’s not a particularly strong claim anyway, but it would be easier to read and understand if it were written: “we provide essential services…”
If you’d like any help explaining your services in a way that makes you sound likeable, authentic and professional, please get in touch.