Calling all grammarians and anyone frustrated by the corporate double-speak in the e-mails that fill your inbox and letters clogging your mailbox! A book recommendation:
Death Sentences: How Clichés, Weasel Words, and Management-Speak Are Strangling Public Language by Don Watson (Australia: Knopf, 2003; USA: Penguin, 2005)
The back flap of Watson’s book describes the author as “one of Australia’s best-known writers and public intellectuals.” Specifically, Watson is a prolific writer of books, essays and entertainment reviews, and has worked as a political satirist and speechwriter, most notably for Paul Keating, the former Labor prime minister of Australia.
In Death Sentences, Watson criticizes with skill and wit (and an insider’s knowledge) the hollow, evacuated, “dead” language we encounter in the “value-added” corporate mission statements we read in letters received from banks and utility companies, that is propagated by the “dynamic change-driven organizations” in mass media and has begun to infiltrate the “horizontal flows” of our daily conversations.
One pearl of wisdom from Watson, applicable to the IT center, corporate office and classroom:
It is said that a happy worker is a good worker, and what workers would not be happier if the sentences they wrote and read were less like clogged drains? What if they were more like babbling brooks? If they were clear and yet contained an image or two and a bit of fun or verve or had a sinew of imagination…. (p. 80)
I recommend adding Watson’s book to your reading list; Death Sentences is a corollary of George Orwell’s 1946 essay “Politics and the English Language.”