Monday, 12 January 2009

"What You Mean to Say" - ctrl K, 2001

Although I'm sure this blog doesn't always reflect it, I have always appreciated words and tried to make sure those I use convey what I really mean to say.

As an oil trader, it was critical to make sure that my trading partner - on the other side of the telephone, and perhaps the other side of the world as well - understood exactly what I was agreeing to do with him/her. As a classroom instructor, I was also very careful to try to express myself clearly. But now I'm dealing almost exclusively with written training materials. And language has become, perhaps, even more important.

After all, if you were to spend the money to take one of my employer's web-based training courses, I would want you to clearly understand the material. Unlike classroom training, you don't have an instructor sitting by your side, as you are at your computer, to answer questions about confusing or misleading English.

So I've become especially sensitive about how information is presented. I'm not horribly picky about correct English (although John might disagree), but I expect people to say what they mean to say. And I'm becoming more and more surprised how often even the well-respected BBC are making silly errors...especially with news headlines.

Let's look at two of this morning's radio news headlines. I should quickly add that these may or may not be exact quotes. But they are close enough to real quotations to give you the idea what I'm talking about.

Kate Winslet surprised herself with her two Golden Globe awards last night.
Does this mean that in each of the two instances, Kate marched onstage and gave herself an award that she hadn't expected to receive?

Airports in Scotland have lost around 500,000 passengers in the last 10 months.
I'm familiar with the problem of lost luggage. But lost passengers? You'd think there would be a major investigation if that many people have been misplaced, wouldn't you?

Any examples from my readers would be welcome. Sadly, John and I are starting to notice examples of this problem all over the place.


PS If any of you are really interested in the two news stories that I mentioned above, here's a newspaper link to the Kate Winslet story - and one for the "lost passengers" story as well.


At 12 January, 2009 17:38 , Blogger Heather said...

Oh boy, can I relate! Having been a professional communicator for all these years, I'm probably fussier than most about this kind of thing.

At 15 February, 2009 10:41 , Anonymous splendid said...

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