Grammatical suits

Grammatical suits

Chatting with my friend Rita Zonius the other day we were discussing how hard people in business, particularly senior people, seem to find it to say what they mean clearly in writing.

Even people who can write “normally” in other circumstances “talk funny” when they are called upon to write at work. It’s like they don a grammatical suit when they arrive at the office.

Why is this?

6 thoughts on “Grammatical suits

  1. I think it’s a misguided fear that simple (plain or uncomplicated) language will make the message simplistic (overly simplified). So a ‘training plan’ becomes a ‘robust and meaningful strategy for ongoing personal and professional development demonstrably related to business needs going forward’.


    1. Exactly that. It is definitely driven by fear and nervousness which is why it is such a shame. It seems so much more obvious when they start trying to talk to people online where the tone is even more informal.


  2. It’s not necessarily fear. It’s because of other’s expectations too. Others expect the bs formulations. I’ve had reports sent back for ‘a complete rewrite’ because it was formulated in a straight forward way. Turning stuff like “it happened 3 times in April” into things like “the incident number came out at 3 in the first month of Q2” And adding a bunch of ‘Moreover’s’ made it acceptable to management and the 2nd version a much better report, even if the content was the same.


    1. Maybe it’s the fear of not fitting in then but I agree. It does my head in when you deliver something that is concise and in plain language and they demand that you obfuscate it.


  3. Interacting with some of the ‘intelligentsia’ here in New Mexico, I’d have to say there’s a distinct undercurrent of tribe identification. Shared multisyllabics should be polyphiloprogenitive (wink), required for admission, whereas ‘plain speaking’ is indicative of “Hey, we’ve got a hayseed in our midst.” And yet the individuals practicing this ritual are often terribly insecure, concerned about reputation. They would rather maintain social dominance and be dismissed as ‘out of touch’, than lower the reading level and effect change among less-highly-educated subordinates for fear of being looked down upon by intellectual peers. Reputation or productivity?

    There is the dark side, however. Ease the discourse in the wrong places, you can see what we’ve ended up with here in America. A veritable slippery slope of sorts. A tyranny of the ill-educated masses. Even with individuals of high education, the lowering of the national conversation is being heard and felt. Shakespeare showed us that a mere four letter word is the least entertaining expletive one could ever come up with, yet I’m hearing them regularly in the halls of academia, in the mouths of the scholarly. It’s understandable to anyone, certainly, but doesn’t really add any value to a lecture or colloquium.

    So maybe, “there’s a place and a time for verbosity”?


    1. Hmmm… I wasn’t so much arguing against verbosity as inauthenticity. If complex language is truly the best way to communicate your ideas then fine. If it’s a means of making others feel stupid, or a shield to hide behind… not so good.


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