Regional and national, print and digital, marketing copy in and around Boston
Executive and case histories for a prestigious Boston management consulting group that also financed early work in the novel that became BEAUTY
* The ghosting of a how-to book on optimizing creativity in corporate practice (Harvard Business School Press)
* The ghosted biography of a physicist who studied under Fermi and migrated influentially between the US Defense Department and defense contractors (Sunstone Press)
* First pass at a ghosted memoir-in-buildings of a heavyweight New York developer
(This from “250 Words,” a Simon and Schuster site offering essays and commentary on business)
In the eighties and nineties, I wrote print and web marketing and, for a management consulting outfit, profiles and case histories and idea pieces. The constant presence in this work was business jargon.
The jargon decorates and obscures, and writers hate it. Clients want it. For the clients, it’s proof that they are in business. Not to use it suggests they are not current, not really in business at all. There’s also the unspoken worry that, without decoration, a message could be empty.
Every year, new business books roll through with incremental notions and the associated language. An executive will appreciate a notion and, using the language in which it was wrapped for the book, apply the notion to a particular situation. Subordinates and colleagues pick up on this and argue their decisions in the now-favored language of the notion whether or not it’s relevant, and the language has become jargon. A writer can parse the lower case notions and jargon and sometimes nudge a jargon-captured client into going with the facts.
The greater difficulty is the book that speaks to the foundations of business thinking. To avoid ruffling contemporary feathers, consider Tom Peters’ In Search of Excellence. When it came out, it was alone in opposing management by a command and control bureaucracy. Search caught on. The language was about facilitating quick decision-making to avoid bureaucratic control, learning from the people served by the business, fostering innovation, treating the rank and file as a source of quality, hands-on management and lean staffing, shop-floor autonomy. This language and its imperatives went viral among even the most senior managers, and if you weren’t using it, you weren’t dialed in. If you ran a command and control outfit and wanted or needed to stay that way, getting addicted to Peters’ language, jargon by this point, would cause a confusion of perspectives at best.
Which is a writer’s nightmare. Fighting through jargon in search of a message is hard enough. Getting a client to let go of jargon-from-on-high, can be impossible.
Writer’s advice? When senior people talk so much about the big new idea that the language of the idea permeates common business vocabulary, you’ve got dangerously powerful jargon. Don’t do what it says. Break the jargon down to clarity in the particular circumstance of your individual business. Then you can appreciate the jargon on your own terms and apply it or not – and instruct your writer to decorate or not.
EDIT and COACH
What Would You Sacrifice for a Second Chance?
Closely mentoring and editing two prospective writers, adult and highly educated souls but wholly innocent of writing fiction, through their novels, first page to last.
Two semesters teaching creative writing at the Harvard Extension
Two more at Emerson, teaching undergraduate and graduate classes
Another two at Boston’s Grub Street
And for several years, Sunday evening classes in the living room