Lecture 6: Word Clutter Backfiring

Binge drinking

Here is another example of word clutter where the writer uses inflated, pompous language to make a reasonable point, but in such a way as to attract ridicule or scorn.

The text was cited by thinkbusiness.ie, a website set up by the Bank of Ireland, to support small- and medium-sized enterprises. The website quotes an unnamed alcohol-industry professional as writing:

“A real, embedded and strategic commitment to responsible behaviour, even if it appears superficially counter to a business’s commercial interests, is actually a critical business enabler in the modern world of stakeholder advocacy.”

The writer means, I think, that in the long run, the alcoholic-beverages industry stands to make more money doing what it can to discourage binge drinking. Taking the moral high ground avoids a public backlash over perceptions that producers and distributors are profiting from other people’s misery, especially those prone to binge drinking.

However, the buzzwords and jargon make the writer sound amoral and pompous. The truth may be that the writer is as morally upstanding and ethically minded as the best of us. You would never know it from the wording of this brief but ham-fisted message. Expressions including “embedded and strategic commitment,” “critical business enabler,” and “stakeholder advocacy” sound distant and inappropriately clinical in the context of a tragic social problem emerging from the sale of alcohol. The Bank of Ireland published this statement to provide a lesson in business ethics, public relations, and common sense.