Thursday, March 20, 2008

Bordering on Business-Speak

A while ago, I wrote about the perils of Business-Speak. Say What? explored the dangers of using 25-cent words when 5-for-a-dime ones would do just as well. It bemoaned the practice of convoluting perfectly good English in an effort to make one appear better educated, better informed, or just "better" than the general public.

To kick off the earlier post, I mentioned -- and quoted -- a well-known and well-respected writer of one of my husband's techno-geek magazines.

Well, of course such a person would have spider-bots crawling the web looking for mention of his name. The original writer noticed my post and commented upon it online. Being a decent sort of person, he didn't bring his flamethrower. He acknowledged the dangers of Business-speak, and was quite gracious about a total stranger (me) taking his use of language to task.

I was reminded of these events today, when, while reading the news, I came across tales of Borders Bookstores financial woes. In a statement discussing the company's $42.5 million financing commitment, Borders CEO George Jones said:

We believe that consummation of the transactions under the commitment will make us fully funded for 2008, where absent these measures, liquidity issues may otherwise have arisen in the next few months.

I have to say, that I agree with him. If I were guaranteed $40 million, I believe the House of Hendrickson would be "fully funded for 2008" as well.

There is nothing wrong, per se with Jones' comments. It's just that instead of saying "With these funds, we should be able to limp through the year, but without them, we'd have been broke by summer," he felt compelled to couch those sentiments in Business-speak. Why?

Perhaps if Jones had simply said what he meant, investors would have jumped ship in droves. Clarity of word often leads to decisive action.

On a day when headlines include both Jobless Claims Hit a Two-Month High and Big Payday for Wall St. in VISA's Public Offering (which discusses how VISA has become the largest U.S. IPO in history: over $18 billion), it probably behooves a beleagured CEO to border on Business-speak so that only those who are listening closely will be able to discern what he's saying.