I used to write a lot of emails. Hundreds a day. I was pretty darn good too. In fact, at my old job at an advertising agency my boss gave me a promotion based on my ability to write bulletproof (or client-proof?) emails — not ads. Who’da thunk?
A good corporate email covers all possible angles (of ones ass) while elegantly obfuscating the actual point. I call this Redundant Hyperbolic Corporate-speak. By the end of said email, you want your reader to prefer to take a large wooden mallet to their frontal lobe than to 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 lots on your plate, will proceed accordingly unless you have any major issues. 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.
Email is just the tip of the iceberg, of course. The reigning expert in this vast field is the venerable Sir Humphrey Appleby, fictitious 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, significantly 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.”
398 words vs. 18. That’s a 95% reduction in bullshit.
I leave you with a quote from another grand master of corporate-speak — 30 Rock’s Jack Donaghy, Vice President of East Coast Television and Microwave Oven Programming at General Electric:
Jack Donaghy: You have to fire ten percent of your staff.
Liz Lemon: What?
Jack Donaghy: We have to synergize backward overflow.
Thanks for reading my post! If you found this interesting, please share it so that other would-be corporate-speak aficionados can find it. If you’re a veteran of corporate-speak, or have a suggestion for other readers — leave a response below.
On a related note – my thoughts on corporate “spin”: The Honest Entrepreneur