Friday, December 10, 2010

Around the Word

Communication is a tricky balance between "saying it directly," "saying it artfully," and "saying it originally." Today on the BloGG, we're taking lessons on the marriage of style and substance:
  • Certainly, FDR’s speechwriters get to share in the credit for his legendary response to the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. As The Christian Science Monitor points out, though, it was a last-minute presidential edit that helped the speech “define the event for generations.” In an earlier draft, the speech called December 7, 1941 “a date which will live in world history”—an opener made infinitely more powerful by Roosevelt’s historic word swap: the rhetorically-savvy prez “scratched ‘world history’ out with his pen, and printed over it in a spidery hand, the single word ‘infamy.’” 
  • Groupon, the ubiquitous deal-a-day phenomenon that’s probably already in a city near you, prides itself on their snappy copy. Thanks to the company’s leaked (and unverified) style guide, you, too, can have access to what Business Insider calls Groupon’s “secret sauce,” says New York Magazine. According to the style guide, the “Groupon Voice” is defined by “absurd images,” “hypothetical worlds/outcomes,” and “mixed metaphors,” suggesting that it may have limited use to, well, anyone not writing for Groupon. On the other hand, some of their guidelines—mainly the ones about avoiding classic marketing clichés—seem like advice well-taken.
    What do you think? Are you tempted to adopt any of Groupon’s “quirky” tips in your own copywriting?
  • In Johnson, The Economist’s language blogger attempts to parse out the “subtle cues and subtext” of “business English.” Cataloging each turn of phrase by usage, source, and subtext, blogger G.L. reveals a rather unflattering (but not unexpected) portrait of the American workplace. Many of the clichés, among them “going forward,” and “to your point” are ways of reassuring their intended audience that progress is being made—whether or not that’s the case. While we at the BloGG try to avoid Businessese, we admit we've been doing an awful lot of "reaching out" these days. What about you? Does Johnson have your number, or have you managed to buck the trend?

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