How to sound warmer and less corporate

Reading corporate writing is painful.

It’s troublesome for anyone to read certain words and phrases that we hope the writer wouldn’t use when speaking. Office clichés should never appear in business writing, and neither should we try to sound too formal.

For example, “regarding”, “following”, “myself”, “going forward”, and “meaningful”, are often used to sound more polite or official.

But they make the writer sound pretentious, self-important and cold, and it creates distance between them and us.

By replacing these words with more natural ones we’d say out loud, we sound warmer, more human, and worth reading.

1. “Regarding” versus “about”.

Please read Brian’s report regarding the forthcoming change in legislation.

It sounds much more friendly and human to use “about”, and it uses fewer keystrokes.

2. “Following” versus “after”.

We decided to go with Smith’s proposal following consultation with Finance.

Using “after” sounds more natural, has fewer syllables and allows us to use the verb “consulting” (better than a noun).

3. “Myself” versus “I” or “me”.

Please could you come to discuss it with Kim and myself.

Apart from sounding stuffy, this is bad grammar. Myself is a reflexive or intensive pronoun, not a subject or object pronoun.

That means it’s okay to say “give yourself time” and “he built it himself”, but not “contact Betty or myself”.

4. “Going forward” versus “in future”.

Going forward, we will look to strengthen our position. 

Please use the attached form going forward. 

You might read this in news about some forthcoming redundancies. It’s an office cliché that means well, but has a tendency to try to point to a more positive future than the reality.

How to sound warmer and less corporate

Here’s a handy bingo card and article to take into your next meeting if it’s at risk from meaningless office speak. Speaking of which…

5. Writing “meaningful” instead of something more er, full of meaning.

I’d like to have a meaningful discussion with IT.

This is usually meaningless.

Of course there can be good reasons for using the more polite, formal or jargon/cliché-y word, which may be used to avoid repeating words. But check your writing for words and phrases that are forced, stuffy or clichéd.

Colder examples include in excess ofper annum/per capitaalign, integrate, facilitate, utilise and leverage. Beyond that, we get into full-on bizspeak. James Gingell writes a riposte on Vice. 

How about you, which phrases turn you off when you read them? Are you guilty of writing too corporately? Let us know in the comments box!

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