Subbing the world

Righting copywriting wrongs, one word at a time

Experience Corner: Stapling

Since I announced the launch of Experience Corner, the contributions have been flooding in. By which I mean that, just as you have one flood, I’ve had one contribution.

Luckily, it’s from the ever-dependable Nick Asbury. My original post inspired him to see if even the most mundane of products got the ‘experience’ treatment. And he hit the jackpot immediately:

Stapling experience

Yes, www.rapidelectricstapler.com popped up top of the Google results for ‘stapling experience’.

However, I was in two minds about allowing this into Experience Corner. After all, undeniably mundane as stapling is, we are talking electric stapling here. This is much more than the squeezing of leaves between two manual jaws, and hammering down with the heel of the hand. This is rapid, dependable stapling at hitherto unimagined degrees of accuracy and efficiency.

As Rapid Electric Stapler points out breathlessly, ‘People can staple non-stop with the help of these electric staplers.’ He (or she, it’s not clear) then goes on to reassure us that:

This technology has reduced the worries of people regarding stapling.

And we can all be grateful for that.

Is it so hard, I found myself wondering, to believe that the sheer physical pleasure of deploying an instrument such as the Stanley Electric Stapler might well be sufficiently overwhelming to warrant the name of experience?

Indeed, is that over-used term not perhaps too meagre for the transfiguring, Damascene encounter that occurs when one moves from antiquated manual labour to the electrically-powered thrust and fold of those precise steel prongs? Do we not demean this near-religious passion by including it rather sarcastically in our so-called ‘Experience Corner’? I fear that perhaps we do. I am ashamed.

The last words must be left to Rapid Electric Stapler, that anonymous champion of the powered paper-fixing device:

[In] today’s cutthroat world of business one must keep abreast with evolving technologies and embrace it to make their business a success.

How true. How true.

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Filed under: Experience Corner

Experience Corner: No 1

For a long time, Private Eye ran a ‘Solutions’ column, collecting all those ridiculous uses of ‘solutions’, like describing cardboard boxes as Christmas Ornament Storage Solutions. They seem to have got bored of that now, and I can’t say I blame them. But it was fun while it lasted.

In similar spirit, I thought it was time I started ‘Experience Corner’. As I sat chewing my muesli this morning, my eye fell on the back of the Alpen bag, where I read this:

Alpen breakfast experience

And this:

Alpen taste experience

In both cases, you could drop the word experience without any loss of meaning. (Or perhaps, without compromising your reading experience.)

So why is it there? And why in God’s name is everything an ‘experience’ these days? I can’t go to a shop, I have to have a retail experience. I can’t eat at a restaurant, I have to have a dining experience.

I know what it means when people use it internally, as part of their business-speak. They mean the complete package: not just the food, for example, but the service, décor and ambience.

Fine. Use it internally. But don’t inflict it on the public. They’re happy enough to enjoy ‘that unique Alpen taste’, or ‘a deliciously creamy breakfast’, without unnecessary words floating about in it.

I’d be very grateful if you could send me your own examples of this silly and annoying copywriting habit. Thanks, and have a nice day experience.

Filed under: Experience Corner, Jargon, Verbiage

Let's start with this blog. The name's just not right, is it? It's much wider than sub-editing. It's just as often about words that are technically correct, but tonally all over the place. Oh well. Anyway, please feel free to send me your own examples of horrible copy (but please, no more erroneous apostrophes): mike[at]reedwords.co.uk

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