Mightier Than The Pen

Making The World A Bitter Place

The Top 12 Phrases to Avoid in Business Communication, You Moron

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Listen up, business people. And housekeepers. And pets. OK, maybe not pets. Not many of you communicate using words, so this might not be relevant to you. You can decide afterwards, I suppose.

This little item from Inc.com asserts that the phrase, “I will try” signals an openness to failure that automatically dooms your proposed activity in the eyes of supervisors, prospective employers, clients, rampaging badgers, etc. “3 Words that Guarantee Failure,” the writer calls it. And it may be so. But those can hardly be the most egregious words to avoid in any proposal. They’re just so…lame. And everything about business communication is lame. It has to be, or you frighten off the delicate wallflowers who have the money you want.

But we can do better. Here, therefore, are the top 12 phrases and statements that guarantee rejection or failure before you get off the ground:

12. Dear Ugly: Using this greeting, or variations thereof, to open a cover letter or other kind of business communication will invariably result in rejection. Remember that at many companies, the first person to see your letter will be not Ugly himself or herself, but a less secure individual acting as clerk or secretary to Ugly, and will be moved to relegate your letter, and CV, no matter how impressive its contents, to the circular file. And even if your mail goes directly to someone important enough to matter, you want to flatter. Really. I know it’s hard for someone as bitter as you, but you must, uh, try.

11. I has: Grammar, you imbecile. You are not an LOLcat, and even if you were, proper LOLcat syntax calls for “I can has,” and even then, only as a way of seeking permission. You will note that few, if any, cats hold positions of influence at major corporations.

10. …and in general, embezzle as much of your assets as I possibly can: Bad form. Advancement and wanton misappropriation of property may go hand in hand in today’s corporate (and political) world, but it is impolite to aver such things at the outset. Subtlety is your friend. You goddamn idiot.

9. Despite repeated arrests for disorderly conduct…: You do not want to call attention to your more troublesome skills until you have had time to secure an adequate severance package.

8. …to destroy your company: As threats go, this one’s a biggie, but this formulation risks not offending the reader personally. As we all know, personal affronts are your ticket to rejection, failure and lawsuits. Play your cards right and you might even earn a contract – on your life.

7. Companies like yours, who give thieving bastards a bad name: “Such as.” Grammar again. Careful, ladies and gents.

6. As you could see from the attached CV if you weren’t an illiterate toad: You have no idea whether toads can read, or whether the reader is in fact a toad. This shows sloppy research at best, and outright carelessness at worst.

5. My strong nose-picking skills: Although the cover letter is the place to highlight attributes not necessarily evident from your CV, you do want to reserve the space for talents germane to the position for which you are applying, or the project you are proposing. This writer doubts that nose-picking skills of any kind are an asset in business. Even if you are applying for President of the Fourth-Grade Gross-Out Club, that organization can hardly be expected to solicit CVs and go through the arduous process of selecting candidates when turnover in that position happens, by nature, every single year.

4. My political views, which can only be described as Neo-Caligulan: It’s unclear what you mean by this. You cannot assume that the reader knows Roman history, and will therefore remain unaware that you plan to promote an equine to a senior position and slaughter most of the leadership. Perhaps you see this as an advantage, but keep in mind that Caligula did not end well. You might fare better with Stalin. Meaning emulating him, not actually trying to fare with him personally. That would be stupid. He’s dead, you know.

3. My plan to convert all employees, and their families, to homosexuality: You know that’s not possible, right? Ambitious is good; unrealistic is not so good, and prospective clients and employers have a very good grasp of the difference. Aim high, but not ridiculously high.

2. All office space not currently occupied by space aliens: This meaningless detail detracts from your main points – as far as the willfully ignorant sheeple are concerned, all office space remains free of alien life, and you risk confusing the reader. You might do better with something closer to the general (if erroneous) perception of reality such as, “all space not currently in use as a hiding place for illegal immigrant workers.”

1. But while I consider driving customer satisfaction to unprecedentedly low levels to be only a minor achievement: Such weak phraseology. Be forthright. State things directly: “I relish making my client/employer regret entering this line of business in the first place.” Less wordy and more to the point.

You can apply these lessons. I know you will try.

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Written by Thag

March 20, 2012 at 4:26 pm

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