Are You Committing Verb-Crimes? Read More to Find Out

A person’s choice of language can tell you a lot about them – about their education, their interests and about their personality.  People working in creative industries, for example, have a tendency to using words that create drama and intrigue.  I remember once receiving an invitation for an art exhibition in which there was a description of the evening’s events which included time allocated for the artist to ‘address the piece.’  Never being afraid to ask a stupid question, I conferred with a colleague about what was meant by that phrase and in very plain speak she said: “he’s going to stand up and talk about the painting and explain what inspired it and how he did it.”  Oh, right!

A similar phenomenon takes place in the world of marketing, PR and media, too.  I have observed a clear trend in recent years for folks wanting to spice up their language by doing a verbal trick whereby nouns are magically transformed into verbs.  I saw Mark Riley, Sunrise’ s political editor, do this recently when he was describing an important piece of new legislation, and a meeting where participants would ‘landscape’ some new ideas.  Hmmmm.

Flash forward to a recent edition of Celebrity Apprentice Australia, where an advertising guru from Naked Communications had maybe been watching too many reruns of competitive diving events when he invited the apprentices, all in the one sentence, to ‘platform’ some ideas that they could ‘springboard’ at the launch.  Huh?

Oh, and that reminds me of another favourite target for misuse:  aspirational.  This must be the current business buzzword of all time, but be careful in its use.  You can aspire to something, yes; and a goal can be aspirational, yes; but don’t get clever and try to get together with your colleagues to ‘aspirate’ about the coming year, because in that case it means you will be expelling some fluid that has been trapped in your lungs!  In the same way that being a solicitor, and soliciting, are not the same thing.

I understand the reasons why people feel the need to spice up their language, particularly in the exciting cut-and-thrust world of sales and marketing, when trying to capture people’s attention and imagination.  But there is a fine line between sounding exciting and committing what I call ‘verb crimes’.

If you have any recent examples that you can share of crimes against language in the corporate world, drop me a line and share!

Yours in PR,


1 Comment »

  1. The way I see it is that, once you have decided on the sharp end of the problem and laid your agenda on the table, with all due respect, we can then prioritise ongoing procedures and, at the end of the day, decide on a ball park figure.
    See? Easy! It’s not rocket science, you know!

    Check out my word blog at

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