Corporation 20/20 Receives ‘Busted English’ Award From The Lion

Corporations really shouldn’t be allowed to speak in public. At least not in English, or what passes for English in the corporate world. Here’s a letter in today’s Globe:

RE "A core value that helps the bottom line": Community volunteerism is one, but only one, component of the contemporary corporate responsibility agenda. Too often firms narrowly construe their social responsibility as community philanthropy to the exclusion of such issues as livable wages, climate change, and fair treatment of suppliers.

A comprehensive, enduring approach to corporate responsibility must include but reach well beyond community activities to embrace this broader social and environmental agenda.

This is the model pursued by true leadership organizations.

Allen L. White, Boston
The writer is director of Corporation 20/20.

Doesn’t the phrase “component of the contemporary corporate responsibility agenda” just roll off the tongue in a salivary drool of meaninglessness?

And how about “narrowly construe their social responsibility”?

And that second paragraph? Doesn’t it make you lust to grab onto something solid so that you don’t think you’re drifting off into the vacuum of deep space?

But what can one expect from a corporation which opens its website with the following paragraph:

What would a corporation look like that was designed to seamlessly integrate both social and financial purpose? Corporation 20/20 is a new multi-stakeholder initiative that seeks to answer this question. Its goal is to develop and disseminate corporate designs where social purpose moves from the periphery.

Consider that someone actually sat down and spent some time figuring out the best way to say these things, and managed to come up with these vague, fuzzy-headed phrases and sentences. No doubt they received pats on the back and nice bonuses.

Maybe sometime these guys could come out of their cubicles and corner offices and talk to real people? Or even better, listen.

But The Lion is not a harsh, unforgiving critic (except when it comes to Republicans, of course). In a spirit of magnanimity almost never seen on Grumpy Lion, The Lion recommends to Mr. White and his minions a book called Writing With Precision, by Jefferson D. Bates. Mr. White should invest in copies for everyone who goes near a word processor in his company. And while he’s at it, he should treat himself to a copy.

Until then he would do himself and his company a favor by not using English in public writing places.


6 Responses

  1. I thought their language was called Corporatese.


    • They’d like us to think they have their own special langwidge. They’re so habituated to getting around rules and regulations that they try to apply the same mindset to the English language.


  2. A game I sometimes play with my fellow wage-slaves is Dilbert-speak bingo.

    You make a list of the most repulsive anti-words that you might hear in a meeting or find in a report. Everyone gets a score card. You get a point for the most you can tick off.

    The ones you quoted there would probably win you a game by themselves.

    I have just realised that there could be extra points for the density of anti-words calculated by volume of text. Or maybe that’s really too nerdy…


  3. Do I get a prize? 🙂


  4. Well, you won a a game, without even realising you were playing. That must qualify you for a huge virtual prize.

    It ‘s the winning that counts.


    • Okay, I’ll take the large green fuzzy frog.

      (I would have held out for the pretty redheaded woman, but then someone would accuse me of being sexist. But I’m just middle-aged.)


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