Subbing the world

Righting copywriting wrongs, one word at a time

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

Sleeping comfortably? Then I’ll begin.

Coleman sleeping bag label

Not content with upsetting celebrity food writers via this blog, reader Stephen Green (of Greenfisher) has sent me this label from the Coleman sleeping bag his wife bought recently.

If you can’t read the notes on the label, Stephen’s kindly supplied a transcript:

The temperature ratings of our sleeping bags are based on tests which comply to the temperature rating protocols of the European Standard (EN 13537-4.3.3 Manikin* Methodology only).

The definitions, provided according to the European Standard, are:

Comfort: Lower limit of comfort range down to which a sleeping bag used with a relaxed posture, such as lying on the back, is globally in thermal equilibrium and just not feeling cold. Related to a standard woman and in standard conditions of use.

Limit: Lower limit at which a sleeping bag user with a rolled-up body posture is globally in thermal equilibrium and just not feeling cold. Related to a standard man and in standard conditions of use.

Extreme: Lower extreme temperature where the risks of health damage by hypothermia occurs. Related to a standard woman and in standard conditions of use.

Coleman® suggests to follow the “Comfort” temperature.

*Note: during the tests, the manikin is dressed with jacket, trousers and long socks, lying on an insulating mattress – sleeping bag fully closed.

So that’s all clear then. As long as you’re a ‘standard man’ or a ‘standard woman’, of course. Or possibly a ‘manikin.’

Filed under: Confusing, Contributions, Jargon, microcopy, Verbiage

Carry On Signwriting

I spotted this on Dave Gorman’s Flickr. (Yes, that Dave Gorman. He’s quite the photographer.)

Organ Blower Room

One can only marvel at the innocence of whoever put this up. (Unless, of course, they snickered to themselves the whole time they were doing it.)

Filed under: Amusing tangents, Jargon

Officious, verbose AND dumb. Oh my.

David dropped me a line with this, which needs no further comment from me:

Maybe sign

Filed under: Confusing, Downright ugly, Grammar, Jargon, Tone of voice, Verbiage

It’s not ‘laying people off’, it’s ‘synergy-related headcount restructuring’

I’m afraid I’m recycling an old post from an old blog here, but I think it bears repeating.

Thanks to my friends at writing association 26, I was alerted to this quite extraordinary bit of corporate language-mangling by Nokia Siemens Networks.

Nokia nonsense

And that’s just the first paragraph.

I’m not sure what people feel is gained by this sort of language. We all know what they mean, so why not be straight about it?

They’ve merged, which means they don’t need so many people. It’s an unpleasant fact of corporate life, but it is a fact and we all know it.

Jargon like this makes the brand look silly – surely they don’t think anyone is fooled by it? It also makes them look pretty shifty and evasive, unprepared simply to stand by their actions.

Listen to this, from further down the release: ‘At the completion of the planned synergy-related headcount restructuring activities, Nokia Siemens Networks expects to have in the range of 7,000 employees in Finland, from an initial base of approximately 9,200.’

Seven stodgy paragraphs in, and they’re still not letting go of that enormous phrase, ‘synergy-related headcount restructuring’. In fact, they’ve added to it, tacking that entirely redundant ‘activities’ on the end. And they’ve also tied themselves in linguistic knots trying not to say, ‘We’re cutting about 2,200 jobs.’

We can all do the maths; we can all see through the smoke. So why bother?

All this reminds me of a News Quiz show on Radio 4, in which Jeremy Hardy ruminated that new jobs are always ‘created’, but cut jobs are simply ‘lost’, as if it was something that just happened. ‘Sorry, Bob, your job’s lost. We’ve looked everywhere – can’t understand it. Anyway, bye.’

Filed under: Downright ugly, Jargon, Tone of voice, 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]


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