The Penultimate Word

What’s Wrong With Plain English?

Part I – Everyday Words Rock!

The annual report read, “Our health and wellness program helps reduce absenteeism and presenteeism in the workplace.” Really—presenteeism? What the heck is “presenteeism”? Is it even a word? Who made it up? And was it really necessary?

I mean, what good does it do to use a word like “presenteeism” if, in the next sentence, you have to explain that “presenteeism is a condition in which an employee is physically present at work, but mentally tired and unable to focus”? Why not just say, “Our health and wellness program helps reduce absenteeism and burn-out”? Everyone knows what “burn-out” is.

Never use a longer word when a shorter word will do. ~Ben FranklinFor some reason, corporate America feels compelled to complicate its communications with “corporate speak.” Big words make them feel erudite and consequential (that’s “smart” and “important” to you and me). Everyday words just won’t do. That’s how we get such awkward, unnecessary, pompous words as “presenteeism,” “incentivize,” “utilize,” and “orientize.” It just makes me want to regurgitate. (You wanted me to say “puke,” didn’t you?) What’s wrong with “burn-out,” “motivate,” “use,” and “orient”?

Ben Franklin once wrote, “Never use a longer word when a shorter word will do.” So, if you truly want to communicate, take those words to heart and use everyday words that everyone understands. Everyday words rock!

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