Redundant Hyperbolic Corporate-speak (Or, Stop Writing Bullshit)

I used to write a lot of emails. Hundreds a day. I was pretty darn good too. In fact, at my old job at one of the bigger advertising agencies, my boss gave me a promotion based on my ability to write bulletproof (or client-proof?) emails. Who’da thunk?

A good corporate email covers all possible angles while elegantly obfuscating the actual point. I call this Redundant Hyperbolic Corporate-speak. By the end of the email, you want your reader to prefer to take a large wooden mallet to their frontal lobe rather than attempt to disentangle the 27.3 related issues that make up “your point”.

Once you have your reader in this deliciously vulnerable position, the coup de grâce – the humane way to let your reader off the proverbial hook – is to include the following:

“Understand you’ve got a lot on your plate, so will proceed accordingly unless you have any major issues. Would be more than happy to discuss in detail if you have any questions.”

At which point your reader will gladly hand over any kind of approval or confirmation you need to just… make it go away.

The reigning expert on this method is the venerable Sir Humphrey Appleby, the fictional Permanent / Cabinet Secretary from the British TV series Yes, Minister and Yes, Prime Minister:

Of course, now that I’m on the receiving end of these types of emails my enthusiasm for Redundant Hyperbolic Corporate-speak has, you will understand, signficantly lessened. Just get to the point, damn it!

For example, this entire post could have otherwise been succinctly expressed as follows:

“Used to write a lot of bullshit. Now I don’t. Stop writing bullshit – it’s bad for the planet.”

275 words vs. 18. That’s a 93% reduction in bullshit.

Are you a veteran trained in the art of corporate-speak? What’s your take on the redundancy of corporate emails? Let me know in the comments!

On a related note – my thoughts on corporate “spin”: The Honest Entrepreneur

2 comments

  1. So true and a very appropriate cartoon strip. Love it.

    1. One of my favourite hyperbolic corporate-speak soundbites comes from the TV show 30 Rock, where Liz is asked to fire 10% of her staff. Jack, her boss, euphemizes the lay off with: “synergize backward overflow.”

      Thanks for stopping by @icastel!

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