Have you ever been in a management meeting where everyone used the jargon, but nobody had a clue what they meant?
The Power of Names, part three:
And for the power of names parts one and two:
Folks in RedQuadrant know that I’m a demon for seeking out and removing what our style guide calls Unnecessary Capitalisation, A Prime Cause of The Reader Stumbling.
So, ‘council’ is lower case, as is borough, business process re-engineering is lower case (even in headings), business case and senior responsible officer are all lower case.
I did one tie myself up in knots and write ‘London borough of Hammersmith and Fulham’, but never mind.
We even write titles in ordinary sentence case – like finance director (the person who is the director of finance), unless we’re emphasising the title like in ‘David Hunter, Managing Director of….’ – because, if a job title has a meaning let’s try to refer to the meaning!
And we spell out acronyms wherever possible: ‘customer relationship management system’, not ‘CRM’. customerrelations are usually anything but.
I have plenty of other exciting stylistic foibles (‘we’ and ‘you’ not ‘RedQuadrant’ and ‘the Council’, never use ‘&’, using the ‘Oxford comma,’ and so on).
But the point of this post isn’t writing – it’s meaning and understanding.
As soon as we Capitalise a thing – or, worse, use acronyms – we are working with the label, the name, not making an attempt to connect to the actual meaning of what we’re talking about.
It’s a silly thing, in some ways.
But I think it is important.
Communication is hard enough anyway, and the further we move to substitute labels for things – however convenient that actually is – the further we get from real meaning.
Of course, this doesn’t go far enough. What the heck is a ‘customer relationship management system’, really? It sure ain’t a system which manages relationships with customers, not really!
M’colleague Arthur Battram talks about getting to primitives, to irreducible concepts and ideas behind our lazy, sloppy language used for marketing and spin and bigging things up which don’t deserve the inflation.
If you’d like a hint of Arthur Battram’s thinking on ‘primitives’, see his site http://plexity.wordpress.com
(where Aidan Ward suggested that the Batesonian primitive is ‘the difference that makes a difference)
I don’t believe, like some, that we can have fixed, definitive meaning – all the language we have is a map of a map, a way to convey something in a context, with corrections, adjustments, and
But Capitalisation and Acronymisation take us away from the primitives, away from the real origins of the use of the world, and deeper into a realm of shadowplay and 🐮💩
I’d love to hear your examples of this – and also your little foibles in the spirit of good communications!