It all started with my bank’s slogan ‘visit us in branch’ which had been irritating me for ages! I just felt the sentence was incomplete and wondered how people would react if I said ‘visit me in office’ or an airline or rental firm said ‘visit us in airport’??
So the other day, finally, I asked people on Facebook, whether it really did sound wrong, or whether I’m just a bit touchy when it comes to grammar and jargon.
My question caused a discussion on Facebook with people agreeing that it sounds wrong. One of my Facebook friends suggested they could have just said ‘visit us’and then let you decide whether this is in branch or on-line. She felt ‘visit us in branch’ was prescriptive or dictatorial as well as sounding grammatically wrong.
I was pleased to hear that I wasn’t the only one who felt irritated by the choice of words! Then a marketer colleague added that “it’s a typical case of an organisation wording something in their own jargon, rather than using customer-friendly language.”
To give another example, I read an interesting blog recently in which people were described as ‘service users’. I couldn’t help thinking that jargon may be acceptable in an official, professional and industry specific context, but it doesn’t translate well into a more personal one.
Lloyds probably had no idea that their customers might object to something they say.
Along the same lines, I had no idea that some people might object to a term I used in a series of blogs recently – ‘mumpreneur’!
I was unaware at the time of several heated discussions online about this word’s negative implications! MyDonut for small business even devoted a whole week of posts to the term.
Language is emotive and once you use jargon or apply a label, there is no way of telling what happens next. You may have pushed someone’s sensitive button, just like Lloyd’s did with me and just like I know I did for others by using the word ‘mumpreneur’.
So should you just play safe when writing for business?
I think not! Using language in a way that makes people think and react, is important especially in the fast-moving and interactive world of blogs and Facebook pages, where people can give immediate feedback.
But using language that has negative implications in a one-way communication such as a website or in TV advertising, isn’t usually advisable.
Unless a provocative slogan, word or visual image has a clear objective and a shock is intended, the risk is that negative responses could be devastating to the brand. People will take avoidance action, whether they click away from your website or stop reading your newsletter.
So the time to be ultra careful with language is when writing for your website – why not ask a colleague to check your copy, or test your words on some of your readers before making them ‘permanent’.
And remember that when writing blogs you may never be able to ‘play safe’ all the time: you will never please everyone by what you say in the same way as you will never please everyone by what you do.
As long as you keep communicating, have a balanced mix of messages and avoid jargon when you can, then, like Lloyds, at least you will make people think!