Thursday, January 10, 2008

De-cliché your lexicon this year

Recently, a cousin of mine asked me to review her friend’s SoP. And it went like this

My fascination over the working of airplanes and racing cars, urged me to get into mechanical engineering. The status gained by my father and my two brothers, after starting their own business made me think of starting my own business relating to my interests. This created an interest in manufacturing turbomachines after doing a research in Computational Fluid Dynamics, which plays a very vital role in providing the solutions for the existing challenges in turbomachinery industry.

My first thoughts after reading these lines were of some poor bloke trying too hard to impress the reader using long and complicated sentences to make them sound ‘formal’ or ‘intelligent’. If I had to read 10 of these passages in order to winnow out the best candidates, I am sure I’ll be irritated and have a headache at the end of the exercise.

IMHO, two mistakes made by almost everyone while writing SoPs, CVs, business writing or even Emails are

  1. Complex sentences – trying to sound erudite or prove mastery over the language
  2. Overuse of clichés

It is rarely that you come across a CV or and SoP or even an IT Proposal without the popular clichés. Most IT companies even have standard IT proposal templates which provide you with a choice of clichés. You put in the name of the client, some details and the magic number, and intersperse them with clichés and you have a proposal ready. It’s a vicious circle – you use them because all other XYZs are using it and you don’t want to be circled out.

"Hey, Cheapo Software Ltd is promising to architect us a pro-active approach which will give us a lot of quick-wins and a value-added solution, which is strategic, robust, scalable and will also help us in our core-competency areas and to move up the value chain and cross the chasm. And you are just giving us a plain vanilla solution."
Can you do the business walk without talking the talk?

Worst case is when people start using clichés to cover up their real intentions or the lameness of their message. Some of them can be really irritating and most of the times they are used incorrectly.

Don't even try it!

Companies thrive on clichés and complex sentences. MBAs hide behind them. Others choke on them and declare themselves too dumb to understand English. :)

Which of the following sentences would you rather read?

The company fired half its workers because nobody bought its product.

Or this far more eloquent befuddlement?

As part of its strategic vision, the company cited shifting demographic demand and variable inventory turnover as cyclical factors contributing to a mission-critical process of rightsizing.

Are you a cliché abuser?

If you are not sure what a cliché is, you are a rare breed. Rejoice.

Do check out this huge collection of everyday clichés - and stay away from them if you can help it!

If clichés do form a large part of your vocab, maybe it’s time for a New Year resolution to change the habit - at least in your personal life!


aparna said...

You can't be righter :-)

A slight variant that is such a common phenomenon these days:

Have you seen this site?

Just view some 10 or 15 of them and get into one of those steamy meetings where even uninvited people will have something to say :-)

Girl With Big Eyes said...


Yup, it's common and sometimes it's expected as well. Otherwise you are considered as 'not with it'!

chaos said...

LOL, ... good one ...

Niths said...

Hi there!

Well, I think cliches actually help one communicate better sometimes. It's easier to convey something using a cliche because you can be sure of how it is going to be interpreted in most cases!


Girl With Big Eyes said...

Chaos, howdy?

Niths, agree with you. I am miffed by the over-use of it. And I have done my bit of it on all my assignments during my MBA - I have to confess! But not anymore, I am a changed MBA!

DriFTeR said...

It surely gives a headache...but some how that's how we are told to write resumes when searching jobs! sadly so! and no wonder... :P
well... sure gives a headache! YOU are SO RIGHT! Why do the economic times articles sound like this??

Ajith said...

Have u checked Dilbert mission statement generator ? URL :-

-- After generating few mission stmts, go through your company mission / product statements :)

Nikhil Narayanan said...

Dunno if u had seen BullFighter that BAIN had come up with, it was a MS Word addon to find bull shitty language and jargons....try googling for it..its hilarious...

Girl With Big Eyes said...

Thanks for the links ppl. It is awesome how much 'bullshit' is being used - especially without meaning a single word of it!