24 April 2009

Lost in transition

That's it. I have had enough of this mangling of the language. It is time to point the finger at the guilty parties, starting with Frost & Sullivan.

This usually intelligent bunch of people cannot hide their roots in management land, where clear writing has never been the name of the game, as the ever excellent Lucy Kellaway points out every week in the Financial Times.

The latest crime against clear writing comes in the article North American Battery Manufacturing Trends. This item is one of a continuing series of excellent briefs on important subjects that Frost & Sullivan puts out regularly. Any journalist following technology would do well to sign up for access to these free reports.

The service would be a lot better if the articles were written in English. For example, why on earth do they have to write in this short report "Historically, battery manufacturing has transitioned away from the U.S. and Canada towards regions that offer lower production and capital costs, and higher governmental incentives"?

Transitioned? They mean moved. If you want to use a longer word to describe this simple process, try migrated.

Repeat after me, Frost & Sullivan, transition is not a verb. If the word transition is dear to you, and has some special meaning in the world of batteries, the phrase you are looking for is "made the transition".

The trouble with this sort of language is that it makes you look at the rest of the article. So you ask yourself, what can they mean when they say "North America has been cultivating battery innovation and advancement for years"? What sort of fertiliser do they use?

Then you start to look at how the company describes itself. Frost & Sullivan, we read, is "the Growth Partnership Company". What does that mean?

It gets worse. The next bit of the description of the business says that it "partners with clients to accelerate their growth". Partners with? Do they mean "works with"? Or is there something kinky going on here?

It would be all to easy to go on, and on and on and on, about this sort of drivel. (Frost & Sullivan's "services empower clients to create a growth-focused culture that generates, evaluates, and implements effective growth strategies".) Instead, perhaps it would be better to offer them some editorial support, paid for, of course, they are consultants, after all. It wouldn't take a decent writer very long to eliminate the most egregious crimes against the language.

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