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The Platitude Sickness: The Trash of Corporate Writing

Welcome to the resistance.

Cover photo: @jerrysilfwer

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There’s a plat­it­ude sick­ness in cor­por­ate writing.

I’m a PR pro­fes­sion­al.
And I some­times hate what I do for a living.

Most nor­mal people hate cor­por­ate bull­shit. As a writer, I loathe those cor­por­ate plat­it­udes with a fever­ish intens­ity. But my cor­por­ate broth­ers and sis­ters cling to them. And it seems as if it’s get­ting worse.

What can we do about this plat­it­ude sickness?

Here we go:

Symptoms of Platitude Sickness

A black and white clip art illustration of a sad kitten
Save the kitten.
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Platitude Sickness: The Symptoms

I hate cor­por­ate plat­it­udes every­where I see them. I swear, a kit­ten dies every time. 

A plat­it­ude is a trite, mean­ing­less, or pro­sa­ic state­ment, gen­er­ally dir­ec­ted at quelling social, emo­tion­al, or cog­nit­ive unease. The word derives from plat, the French word for “flat.” Platitudes are geared towards present­ing a shal­low, uni­fy­ing wis­dom over a dif­fi­cult top­ic. However, they are too over­used and gen­er­al to be any­thing more than undir­ec­ted state­ments with an ulti­mately little mean­ing­ful con­tri­bu­tion towards a solu­tion.”
Source: Wikipedia 1Platitude. (2023, December 9). In Wikipedia. https://​en​.wiki​pe​dia​.org/​w​i​k​i​/​P​l​a​t​i​t​ude

Here’s my “trig­ger list” of platitudes:

  • Synergy” = Overused to the point of becom­ing mean­ing­less, it refers to the coöper­a­tion of two entit­ies to pro­duce a com­bined effect more sig­ni­fic­ant than the sum of their sep­ar­ate effects.
  • Leverage” = In a busi­ness con­text, this is often used to mean using some­thing, such as a resource or an advantage.
  • Disruptive” = Refers to tech­no­lo­gies or innov­a­tions that dis­turb estab­lished mar­kets or processes.
  • Pivot” = A fun­da­ment­al shift in strategy or approach is often used for minor changes.
  • Value-add” = A term that refers to an ele­ment some­thing gives that some­how enhances it, but it’s often unclear what value is being added.
  • Bleeding-edge” = Refers to the abso­lute latest or most advanced tech­no­logy or innovation.
  • Actionable” = Generally refers to strategies or insights that can be acted upon, but are often used loosely.
  • Holistic approach” = An approach that con­siders the whole situ­ation or sys­tem rather than focus­ing on indi­vidu­al parts.
  • Scalability” The abil­ity of a sys­tem or a mod­el to handle growth is often overused.
  • Game changer” = An event, idea, or pro­ced­ure that affects a sig­ni­fic­ant shift in the cur­rent way of doing or think­ing about something.
  • Paradigm shift” = A fun­da­ment­al change in approach or under­ly­ing assumptions.
  • Cutting-edge” = Like bleed­ing-edge, it refers to the latest or most advanced tech­no­logy or innovation.
  • Thought lead­er.” = An indi­vidu­al or firm recog­nized as an author­ity in a spe­cial­ized field.
  • Empower” = To give power or author­ity, but is often over­used without con­crete meaning.
  • Innovate” = A buzzword for mak­ing changes in some­thing estab­lished, espe­cially by intro­du­cing new meth­ods, ideas, or products.
  • Low-hanging fruit” = The easy tasks or prob­lems to tackle first, but can be seen as a cliché in busi­ness language.
  • Outside the box” = Used to refer to cre­at­ive think­ing, but has become a cliché.
  • Streamline” = Simplify or make some­thing more efficient.
  • Strategic align­ment” = Ensuring that the plans or activ­it­ies of a com­pany are coördin­ated and con­sist­ent with its objectives.
  • Customer-cent­ric” = Placing the cus­tom­er at the centre of a com­pany’s philo­sophy, oper­a­tions or ideas.
  • Robust” = The over­used term implies that a product, ser­vice, or strategy is strong, dur­able, and able to with­stand demands or difficulties.
  • End-to-end solu­tion” = A ser­vice or product that solves a prob­lem from begin­ning to end, but is often seen as a buzzword due to vague definitions.
  • Unprecedented” = Overused to describe any­thing that’s nev­er happened before, often loses its impact due to fre­quency of use.
  • Breakthrough” = A sud­den, dra­mat­ic, and import­ant dis­cov­ery or devel­op­ment, but is often over­used to describe minor advancements.
  • Optimise” = To make the best or most effect­ive use of a situ­ation or resource, but it is often over­used and can lead to ambiguity.
  • Bandwidth” = Originally a tech­nic­al term, it’s now used meta­phor­ic­ally to refer to someone’s capa­city to handle tasks or issues.
  • Ecosystem” = Refers to a com­plex net­work or inter­con­nec­ted sys­tem, espe­cially in the con­text of busi­ness envir­on­ments or technologies.
  • Alignment” = Frequently used to describe the pro­cess of bring­ing dif­fer­ent aspects or depart­ments of a busi­ness into har­mony or agreement.
  • Agile” = Originating in soft­ware devel­op­ment, it’s broadly applied to describe flex­ib­il­ity and adapt­ab­il­ity in vari­ous busi­ness processes.
  • Deep Dive” = Used to describe a thor­ough ana­lys­is or exam­in­a­tion, but often over­used to mean any detailed look.
  • Touch Base” = A cas­u­al way to refer to check­ing in or fol­low­ing up with someone, but it can be seen as a cliché.
  • Granular” = Describes look­ing at some­thing with a high level of detail, but it is often used unne­ces­sar­ily instead of simply say­ing “in detail.”

Getting rid of cor­por­ate plat­it­udes is an uphill battle. They are such a waste of edit­or­i­al space and only lead straight to mediocrity.

Join the resistance!

Learn more: The Platitude Sickness: The Trash of Corporate Writing

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It’s Not My Fault, I Swear

As a cor­por­ate writer since 2005, one could eas­ily assume I am respons­ible for at least two hun­dred shitty press releases. But I’m not, I swear.

Every time I present some­thing to an organ­isa­tion, I speak plainly. When I write, I always rewrite to avoid clichés. I strive to add some bounce to my copy — if noth­ing else, to pre­vent tired and stale sen­tences that ring too famil­i­ar. 2At this point, I should point out that English is my second lan­guage and that I do most of my writ­ing in Swedish. Still, I strive to improve my busi­ness English.

I do my best to avoid plat­it­ude sickness.

But my efforts don’t always pay off.

While some organ­isa­tions appre­ci­ate my efforts, a size­able por­tion of everything I’ve writ­ten for cli­ents has passed through numer­ous fil­ters before publication.

And the res­ult is noth­ing but a dwind­ling tirade of cor­por­ate cringe.

Not. My. Fault.

Oh, How I Loathe Corporate Cringe

I’m not alone in being frus­trated. We’re all exposed to cor­por­ate speak. These plat­it­udes are every­where in mar­ket­ing and communications. 

And for some reas­on, plat­it­udes are becom­ing the go-to format for all cor­por­ate texts. It’s get­ting worse, not better.

I some­times think this is a pidgin lan­guage for dif­fer­ent busi­ness tribes. We fall back on cor­por­ate plat­it­udes to let every­one know we belong in this money-mak­ing space. Ensuring we belong to a com­munity is more import­ant than mak­ing sense. 3Pidgin lan­guages are a mix­ture of two or more lan­guages, and they typ­ic­ally devel­op when two groups in con­tact with each oth­er can­not speak each oth­er­’s lan­guage. Many pidgin lan­guages have evolved … Continue read­ing

It’s mind­bog­gling how many hours organ­isa­tions spend pro­du­cing utter garbage.

The “Carpe Diem” Business Mafia on LinkedIn

Corporate plat­it­udes are such a waste of edit­or­i­al space. Unfortunately, plat­it­ude sick­ness tends to do quite well on social media.

A text loaded with obvi­ous state­ments and no actu­al sub­stance can still attract a lot of social engage­ment. People often hit that “Like” but­ton (emoji but­ton or whatever) without read­ing the linked article. 

Yes, I’m look­ing at you, LinkedIn.

It’s essen­tial to have a strategy.

Always put the cus­tom­er first.

Be pro­act­ive and think long-term.

Publish epic content.

LinkedIn’s “carpe diem” busi­ness mafia can­’t get enough of that stuff, right?

Join the Resistance

Yes, get­ting rid of cor­por­ate plat­it­udes is an uphill battle. There are so many fil­ters and so many read­ers who don’t mind.

Still, there are no excuses for giv­ing up. As com­mu­nic­at­ors, we’re catch­ing people’s interest and mak­ing it worth their time. As we fall deep­er into the atten­tion eco­nomy, rel­ev­ance and sub­stance are the only things that can save us.

We might nev­er win this fight, I admit. But even if we can­’t win, we can at least make life a bit more dif­fi­cult for every­one who com­mits cor­por­ate BS.

So, how do you com­bat plat­it­ude sick­ness in cor­por­ate com­mu­nic­a­tion?

Make it your mis­sion to find plat­it­udes and des­troy them. And don’t let your col­leagues get away with using them, either. As this becomes a ritu­al, you’ll devel­op an “allergy” to cor­por­ate plat­it­udes — and remov­ing them will make you feel better.

Welcome to the fight. You’re in the army now.

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Thanks for read­ing. Please sup­port my blog by shar­ing art­icles with oth­er com­mu­nic­a­tions and mar­ket­ing pro­fes­sion­als. You might also con­sider my PR ser­vices or speak­ing engage­ments.

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ANNOTATIONS
ANNOTATIONS
1 Platitude. (2023, December 9). In Wikipedia. https://​en​.wiki​pe​dia​.org/​w​i​k​i​/​P​l​a​t​i​t​ude
2 At this point, I should point out that English is my second lan­guage and that I do most of my writ­ing in Swedish. Still, I strive to improve my busi­ness English.
3 Pidgin lan­guages are a mix­ture of two or more lan­guages, and they typ­ic­ally devel­op when two groups in con­tact with each oth­er can­not speak each oth­er­’s lan­guage. Many pidgin lan­guages have evolved into full-blown languages.
Jerry Silfwer
Jerry Silfwerhttps://doctorspin.net/
Jerry Silfwer, alias Doctor Spin, is an awarded senior adviser specialising in public relations and digital strategy. Currently CEO at Spin Factory and KIX Communication Index. Before that, he worked at Kaufmann, Whispr Group, Springtime PR, and Spotlight PR. Based in Stockholm, Sweden.
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