Earlier this year, I switched careers to something that’s slightly different from what I got used to in my first few working years. I used to worry about putting out creative material; now I’m drowning in what’s best described as a business setting, and with it a somewhat different culture of communication.
You know what I’m talking about—the kind of speech where things are made to sound fancier and more important than they should be, just because there are some higher stakes in the big picture. Business casual for e-mails, if you will.
This may sound a little too much like naïve and idealistic sourgraping, but coming from a journalistic and creative writing background I tend to value sincerity and directness in communication and correspondence. As writers, we know for a fact that getting too superfluous—to the point where you’re almost talking out of a codebook or something—means you’re masking something, whether it’s the value of what you’re saying or asking for or what you really want from someone on the other end.
For a less toxic and cold business environment, maybe it’s time we think twice about saying:
Yeah, I’m starting off controversial. When you think about it, “cascade” is really just a more efficient way to say “tell someone else this thing you learned,” and I don’t actually have an alternative for it. Maybe “echo”? But, as I spent the first few paragraphs establishing, I hate making things sound more formal just so they sound important. When I think of cascade, I think of waterfalls, not playing pass the message. Let me have my waterfalls.
It’s a fancy metaphor for “workload,” and it pairs up well with the image of managers and supervisors directing the flow of work. I can see where it’s coming from, but the pretentiousness of having to conjure up a visual of what we go through the streets of Metro Manila every day just gets me.
Ooh, this should ruffle some more feathers. Like cascade, there is technically nothing wrong with “best practice.” In fact, in a vacuum, the word “best practice” is actually the best practice for referring to best practices. It’s just that it’s overused (and misused, from a grammar and syntax perspective—i.e. “Isn’t best practice to boost a new Facebook post every two weeks?”) at this point, to the extent that we’re using it for everything. Maybe it’s not so best practice after all, and now I’m annoyed after having to write it so many times in this paragraph.
The key performance indicator is a legit statistic, and what it means is obvious. Maybe this is personal on my part, but one of the greatest lessons I’ve learned from writing is that I don’t really need to refer to jargon if I can phrase it a different, simpler way. Like “benchmark.” Or “this is what we’re observing to know if we’re doing okay.” That’s my own KPI of whether I’m succeeding in communication.
Art by Lara Intong
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