A Framework For Countering Surplus Verbiage

On my way back from Bristol, another monologue started to cohese as I awaited my return flight. It was prompted by a tannoy announcement:

‘This is the last and final boarding call for flight EZY425’

What on earth is a ‘last and final’ boarding call? Specifically, how does it differ from boarding calls which are, respectively ‘last’ or ‘final’ but not both?

Why do people, when working in any official capacity whatsoever, feel the need to plump up their verbal utterances with redundant guff? Recalling a range of office jobs during my summer holidays is enough to furnish me with countless examples of this bizarre and irritating phenomenon.

I notice that, when one company contacts another, the word ‘yourselves’ is often substituted for ‘you’. As in ‘I’m calling regarding the email we sent yourselves’ or (a million times worse) ‘I’m calling regarding the email yourselves sent us‘. And whenever you have the pleasure of dealing with a call centre, they always use the phrase ‘at all’ with utter indiscrimination. ‘Have you got a reference number there at all?’ I always imagined that reference numbers were an all-or-nothing affair, and that they simply could not be possessed in varying degrees. ‘Yes, I’ve got the first two digits, and a couple from the end – will that do?’ I am reminded of the chap from whom I once tried to purchase a bed. Instead of saying the word ‘now’, he would insert the more flowery but surely no more meaningful ‘at the moment in time’. Odd.

Of course, it isn’t just the lower echelons of the corporate world who display this particular eccentricity. If you hang around any business meetings you will be bombarded with all sorts of weird cliches that mean almost nothing. The Plain English Campaign website lists some of these (the whole site is quite amusing, actually). It seems you cannot move in the business world without having to touch base, bring issues to the table, take things forward, push the envelope and think outside the box. It sounds exhausting.

Can anything be done to stem this tide of errant waffle? At the end of the day, there is an opportunity for improvement, and it’s mission critical that we fight fire with fire. So, let’s sing off the same hymnsheet, get all our ducks in a row, formulate a game plan, and envision a strategic framework by which we can take ownership of the problem. This approach (which isn’t rocket science) will allow us to avoid the slippery slope and thus let us put this one to bed.

Enemies of excess flannel unite – this is our last and final chance!

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6 Comments on “A Framework For Countering Surplus Verbiage”

  1. Francis Moore Says:

    Sounds like a win-win situation (as opposed to a good idea)

  2. Wee Gorbals Says:

    You’re so-oo right, Doug. We need some blue-sky thinking on this one….aargh, I’m doing it myself….I’ve got verbositism. Must get to the Doc and see if he (or she) has a cream for that. In the mean time I propose we adopt a dull but effective defense, one which the male of the species has weilded down the years despite enjoinders to be more communicative: monosyllablism.

    ps. The lack of a spell checker in this comment box makes me nervus.

  3. Hannah Green Says:

    I think you’ll like this, Doug – someone at work outlined the aims of my project as follows: “to offer young people the opportunity to collectively engage with children’s literature, to facilitate creative responses to that engagement, and to empower the young people to take ownership of their shared cultural & literary heritage”. In plain English, we want kids to read more.

  4. Ross Says:

    Re “last and final” – could help clarify that this is not only the last (as in most recent)in a long line of boarding calls for said flight but it is also the final of such calls. There will be no more calls. This is it. Finnito.

    It’s a quiet day at the AAH

  5. Doug Says:

    I wondered whether you’d’ve made it in at all today. I hope the Green Room hospitality had you feeling as right as rain again.

  6. Doug Says:

    Oh, and as for your explanation: no cigar. How could this (current) boarding call be the last (previous) boarding call. Stop excusing them.


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