August, 2013

Spot the solution – a riveting new take on motorway Eye-Spy

Just in time solutionsHere’s a new way to relieve motorway boredom – Spot the Solution! It’s not difficult: you’ll see lots of them painted proudly onto the side of lorries as companies deliver their solutions up and down the country. Because adding the word ‘solutions’ to a strapline, or in some cases, the company name, sounds so professional and dynamic doesn’t it?

You could spice up the game by choosing the best worst use of the dreaded word or the most baffling. Here is just a selection of  the ones I’ve spotted recently:


The General Category

Total Water Solutions from Good Water (complete with hazard and poison signs just underneath)

Independent Workwear Solutions (that would be clothes then)

Environmental Consultants Sustainable Solutions

The ‘Works Without Solutions’ Category

Vehicle Solutions Vehicle Hire and Rental (What’s wrong with Vehicle Hire and Rental?)

Medical Gas Solutions

EON smarter metering solutions

Star prize in this category goes to ‘Vehicle Solutions’.

The ‘So What Do You Do?’categoryTop Solution

Warberer’s Optimum Solution (sounds rather sinister…)

Sustainable Group Energy Solutions

Maningly Co Product Solutions

CBES Constructive Solutions (go figure)

Delivering Retail Solutions (“Hello, here’s the consignment of retail solutions you ordered…”)

Specialist Access Solutions

Lifting Solutions (for lifting what?)

Just in Time Solutions

Total Engineered Solutions

Top Solution

Warberer's Optimum SolutionAh. Too many beauties in this category to choose an outright winner. The star prize is shared between Warberer’s, CBES, Top Solutions and Just in Time Solutions. Why waste ink on something so esoteric?






Here are a couple without solutions. They’re just silly:

Delivering Sustainable Distribution (Uh?)

Excellence. Simply delivered

Support that works as hard as a cat (Hello – have you ever observed a cat? Below are some pictures of our cat hard at work)

Monty sleeping on the sill

Monty snoozingMonty in his basket
















So, over to you but please play this game safely and responsibly! I should stress that I do have a passenger to do the scribbling and photography for me… honest officer.



Just an observ-ation

The other day I ordered something online and immediately received an email from the delivery company. The email contained a link to a website where I was able to track my parcel’s progress, change the delivery day and time, or ask for it to be left with a neighbour. Very impressive.

I clicked through to a very clear, easy to read table charting my parcel’s status: 1) Collected. 2) At Sortation Facility…  woah – hold on a second. Sortation Facility? It had me giggling and hooting with derision in equal measure. Sortation Facility. Purleeeese.

What’s wrong with sorting office all of a sudden? Does using a made up word make it more important? Do people who work in ‘sortation facilities’ (sortation facilitators?) feel more valued than their counterparts in mere sorting offices?  I doubt it.

The suffix ‘ation’ seems to have attached itself to other words as well in a rather mistletoe-like, parasitic sort of way (but without mistletoe’s prettiness or usefulness).

‘Expiration date’ is another mind-boggler. Why the need for the suffix? Why not good old-fashioned ‘expiry’?

Don’t get me wrong – I like new words. But only if they express or describe something better than the original word, or if they represent something new.

I like the way ‘random’ became used to describe something that was a little odd or unexpected. And I particularly love ‘earworm’. It perfectly describes that irritatingly catchy tune that rattles around in your head all day until something else equally irritating and catchy replaces it. (And why is it always just one line? Over and over and over.)

I digress. Back to ‘ation’. Adding this suffix seems to be adding for adding’s sake. It’s not useful. It doesn’t give clarity. It doesn’t tell us something we didn’t know about the thing it’s representing, so why do it? It just makes a word five letters too long.

Sortation facility aside, the service was great. I even got an email giving me the name of the driver… or should that be deliveration facilitator?








The new language of tennis

Aside from John McEnroe’s relentless mispronunciation of players’ names (Jokeavitch, del Porcho) another element seems to have crept into the language of tennis this Wimbledon. War terminology.

I know it’s been there for a while in lots of sports but somehow it seems more prevalent at this year’s Championships. This player uses his big serve as ‘ammunition’. Another uses her forehand as a ‘weapon of choice’. I even heard one commentator describe Steffi Graff’s serve as a ‘weapon of mass destruction’.

Other words of war that have been banded around the commentary box this week include ‘firepower’ and ‘big guns’ – used to describe a big serve.

Maybe I’m being oversensitive but I don’t like it. Neither war terminology in business either – I particularly loathe ‘mission critical’.

The language of war has become very sanitised over the years, disguising to a large extent what’s really going on. Pretty much like a lot of business-speak – probably why it’s attractive.

War is unpleasant: people get killed and injured. Sport is entertainment, and while it gets tough at times, and players do get injured, it’s rarely life threatening. Same with business.

Business people in particular seem to think they need to use what they imagine are ‘dynamic’ or ‘strong’ words to give themselves credibility. Many end up sounding like incoherent idiots.

At a time when service men and women are in genuinely dangerous situations, receiving horrific injuries, some losing their lives, using the language of war in sport and business seems wrong. It devalues the true meaning of these words so they no longer have the impact they should. We no longer think about the horrors they really describe.

To quote Boris Becker after he lost in the second round at the 1987 Wimbledon Championships, “Of course I am disappointed, but I didn’t lose a war. There is no one dead. It was just a tennis match.”



Americanisms: irritating invaders of UK English or welcome visitors?

I enjoyed Matthew Engel’s article, ‘Why do some Americanisms irritate people?’ which ran yesterday on the BBC News website’s News Magazine.

Engel says, that while we accept some words from across The Pond, others are more irritating. For instance we use words such as lengthy, reliable, talented, influential, and tremendous without a second thought but they are all US imports.

As he says, “American usages no longer swim to our shores as single spies, as “reliable” and “talented” did. They come in battalions.” And it’s true that some really do grate on British ears!

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Wimbledon tennis commentators serve faulty phrase

So Wimbledon is over for another year and I’m trying to adjust to tennis-free days. One thing I won’t miss though is that horrible phrase ‘the business end’ that too many of the match commentators used too often.

I got tired of hearing, ‘well, we’re at the business end of the set now.’ Ugh. Not only is it plain ugly, but like all phrases that become over-used, it jars. You have to be very careful, in writing as well as in speech, about becoming reliant on certain distinctive words, phrases, and devices.

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Is ‘solutions’ the most over-used word in the dictionary?

It may only comprise eight letters but the word ‘solution’ can drive me to hysterical rants. I really do loathe it. It’s just so over-used in marketing copy, and worse still, as part of a company name.

Businesses seem to think it makes them sound dynamic and professional. Well it doesn’t. It makes them seem dull, unimaginative, dated, and as a PR friend of mine suggested – ‘lazy-brained’.

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Jargon alert: mid-weight copywriter needed

Imagine my bewilderment when this turned up in my inbox earlier:

Seeking a mid-weight copywriter

Our client, a well-established beauty retailer, is looking for a mid-weight copywriter…

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What’s the point of political slogans?

Picture of Ryan Giggs

Hot on the heels of my post about straplines, here’s a BBC News online article speculating on the sound-bite Cameron will use to close the Tory conference.

As with straplines, a lot of thought and care has to go into political party soundbites. Yeah, I know. Hard to believe when you hear some of them. Some sound as though they’ve been scribbled on an expenses chit in the back of a limo, on the way back to that second home. Others reek of a slick advertising agency.

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Predictors of beaconicity banned from holistically synergising stakeholder engagement

No it doesn’t make sense but so much local authority speak doesn’t. However the Local Government Association’s ban on jargon certainly does.

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R Inglish speling & punctuation 2 hard 4 kidz?

A couple of months ago I read in a Times article that the president of the Spelling Society wants to dump the apostrophe. Apparently he also suggested pupils should be allowed to spell words phonetically.  Mmm great idea.

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Hello. I'm Elaine, I'm a copywriter and this is my blog.

It's mostly about words and writing - things that inspire me, entertain me, and make me smile. Sometimes it's about things that horrify me so much I want to scream and shout!

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