business communications

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?

 

 

 

 

 

 

Five things you should know before dealing with the media

Guest post by Nicky Rudd, MD, Padua Communications

Dealing with journalists can be tricky – especially if you’re not used to it. I asked Nicky Rudd, seasoned PR practitioner and managing director of Padua Communications, to share her experience. 

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Client of the month: The Green Cornwall

OK. I admit it. Client of the month isn’t an original idea. I’ve pinched it from friend and frequent collaborator, Robert Games of Padmedia.  Thanks Rob!

I think it’s a great way to let you know what I do, and at the same time, tell you about some of the lovely, inspiring people I work with. And no prizes for guessing how often I’ll be posting it ..

First up is The Green Cornwall - luxury house and holiday cottages on the edge of Bodmin Moor.

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Grabbing the headlines

Grabbing the headlines

Whatever we think of the reporting standards in our national newspapers, they have given us some great headlines over the years.

One of my personal favourites is The Sun’s “Super Cally go ballasitc, Celtic are atrocious” following Inverness Caledonian Thistle’s 3-1 win over Celtic in the Scottish Cup in 2000.

I spotted one of a slightly more sophisticated nature on the front page of The Guardian in April and have been meaning to write a post based on it ever since. It accompanied a front-page story by the paper’s Paris correspondent, Angelique Chrisafis. She was writing about the alleged outrage of notorious French riot police – the Compagnie Repulicaines de Securite (CRS) on hearing they would no longer be allowed to drink alcohol with their lunch.

Apparently, up until now, even packed lunches provided to the CRS out of riot vans while they were patrolling demos, came with a can of beer or glass of wine. And the headline?

“Riot squad sees rouge as police vin gets bottled.”

It’s tempting to think that good headlines are the result of a flash of inspiration (an old stalwart, by the way, when I was Head of Press and PR for Nikon UK and writing about the company’s flashlights – yes I know, I know). But the majority of strong, memorable, and more importantly, effective headlines take time and a great deal of hard work.

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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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A lesson in clear, succinct copy… from an estate agent

I’m sure I’m not the only one to be inundated with leaflets from local estate agents clamouring to sell my house. And I’m sure I’m not alone in consigning the majority of them to the bin without reading beyond the headline. Especially the one with the headline that read ‘Recent Let’s Agreed’. Sadly, I kid you not.

Anyway, one day last week a leaflet dropped through the letterbox that really broke the mould. It was from the Surbiton office of Hawes & Co and it grabbed my attention immediately.

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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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Marketing confessions of a shy, retiring copywriter

When I saw Jupiter Jasper Marketing’s blogging competition, http://bit.ly/lpyv7p, I thought I’d give it a go and enter. For one it gives me a topic for a blog post – not always easy to find when you’re busy. And it’s a chance to share some of the things I’ve learnt in business. The topic for the competition is ‘My biggest lesson in marketing so far’, so here’s mine: consistency.

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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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Why choosing the right words is essential if you want to engage your audience

A lesson in subtlety from World War ll

courage-300px_1Writing copy for marketing materials is about much more than describing your business. In my post ‘Let me tell you a story’,  I wrote about the power of painting a picture for your audience and the importance of choosing words that will engage them.  Well, I’ve just come across a great example from the Second World War of why you need to keep your audience in mind all the time you’re writing.

The Home Publicity Division of The Ministry of Information managed to alienate its target audience with its first poster. Created to boost morale, the poster had the opposite affect because it read:

your courage, your cheerfulness, your resolution will bring us Victory.’ Not surprisingly, it prompted people to wonder who exactly you and we were in that equation!

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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!

I hope you enjoy it and find it useful. And speaking of useful - scroll down and take a look at the Oxford Dictionaries tool.

Click here to find out a bit more about me.

Word Alchemy Blog