Big companies worry about communications. They want every word they send out to stay on message. The goal is to protect or promote brands.
This means a lot of unreadable corporate writing pours out of their headquarters.
Many companies have brand bibles. These are like editorial style guides – they standardise language.
While newspaper style guides make life easier for readers, brand bibles have other goals. They aim to help the company sell.
That’s the theory. In practice this is often counterproductive.
Companies love complicated product names, often littered with jarring capital letters in weird places. Some add odd-ball punctuation. You’ll find trade marks and copyright symbols. Some pepper text with stock market abbreviations.
They give everyday nouns capitals. Some insist on spelling entire words in capitals. They use obscure acronyms and far too many adjectives. And don’t get me started on all the passive voice sauce ladled over this sickly concoction.
You’ll even see companies refer to themselves and other companies in the plural, not singular. Perhaps they think this makes them sound like a bunch of fun people. In reality it makes them look like amateurs.
Companies often focus on writing about the wrong things, like dull histories. That is another story.
Corporate writing is often hard to read
None of this is easy to read. It doesn’t help the flow of information from one mind to another. Every non-standard affectation is like a roadblock on the highway to understanding.
Readers often switch off. They just don’t care.
And yet companies persist. Why?
They carry on turning out crap communications because it is safe. Nobody loses their job if they stick with the brand bible. Managers can tick off boxes all the way up and down the chain of command.
Everyone is happy. Except the poor soul who has to read the awful prose.