Today we have a real treat, a guest post by copywriter Clare Lynch. She writes with brilliance and wit about the English language and has a fine eye for spotting the true idiocies of corporate adspeak. Clare, thank you so much for this fabulous rant. There are about 10,000 companies I can think of offhand that should read it.
The word “solutions” seems an easy target for writerly spleen. After all, everyone knows that incorporating it into your professional vocabulary is a short-cut to sounding stupid. The UK satirical magazine Private Eye even had a whole column devoted to collecting examples of this vile little piece of corporatese.
Yet this low-point of the business lexis just won’t die. Few professionals, it seems, can resist the pull of the pretentious when they’re trying to push their wares.
Only yesterday I came across the repeated use of “solutions” in a brochure for a comms team, who you’d think would have access to a copywriter that might know better. (Though the document did also contain alarmingly frequent references to “our value proposition”, whatever that means.)
So in the war on “solutions”, I hereby present my four top reasons to bury this nasty little word once and for all.
1. It’s inevitably used in a pompously opaque phrase to describe something very simple. For example, I recently came across a company advertising itself as a provider of “fluid transfer solutions”.
It turns out they made hoses.
Had I been in need of a hose that day, then they’d have lost a sale simply because a potential customer had no idea what they were selling.
I’m sure if you’re in the rather mundane business of selling hoses you might feel the need to big yourself up among your dinner party circle now that it’s no longer cool to brag about the size of your mortgage.
But to put off potential customers in this way is madness verging on bankruptcy.
2. It’s invariably redundant. What does “joinery solutions” say that “joinery” doesn’t? Or “herb solutions” rather than “herbs”?
As all decent writers know, the fewer words you use the better, so ditch the meaningless appendage, please.
3. It’s downright ugly. Can there be anything less appetizing than the “Italian meal solutions” on offer at my local supermarket?
How typically English to turn the joy that is spaghetti vongole into the kind of mass-produced mush that’s chowed down between shifts in front of Britain’s Got Talent.
I guess if you see eating as problem requiring a solution, then your ideal meal would be something that sounds like astronaut provisions.
4. It’s a magnet for other similarly tedious expressions found in the corporate lexicon.
What, you hadn’t noticed that solutions are always “delivered”? And if they’re not “creative” then they’re at least “cost-effective”. Sometimes they’re “innovative” as well as “integrated”. And they’re always best when they’re “tailored” or “targeted”.
The resulting corporate babble is formulaic to the point of meaninglessness.
Saying you “specialize in creative, tailored solutions that deliver real business value” tells me nothing about what you actually do.
What it does tell me is that you’re obviously so busy delivering these creative, tailored solutions that you skimped on the copywriter and came up with some tired, generic old blurb that could have been pinched from a competitor’s website.
Scrub that – I mean any business website.
Oh, and that you think I’m stupid enough to be taken in by it.
About Clare Lynch
Clare Lynch is a professional copywriter who gets immense satisfaction from helping businesses ditch their gobbledygook in favour of clear, engaging English. Her ear for language was developed over many years as a student of English literature, culminating in a PhD in Old English poetry from the University of Cambridge.
Clare’s blog, goodcopybadcopy, is dedicated to dissecting good business writing and bad. Actually, it mostly focuses on the bad – simply because there’s so much more of it.