How I Recovered from Corporate Drone (Part 1)

Early in my career, after about six months working full-time for large corporations, I found myself writing sentences like this:

We have developed three data management solutions: ServiceMarkA, a data-presentation strategy designed specifically to facilitate technology transfer and training; ServiceMarkB, an integrated data-management system for technical communication specialists; and ServiceMarkC, a data management strategy tailored for design engineers.

Even my eyes glazed over when I read the stuff. Could I have had a problem?

Of course I did. Cathy Moore (in her now-deceased and greatly missed Authentic Voice weblog) defined the syndrome: Corporate Drone. She described it as:

that vague, verbless text that oozes a numbing gray fog whenever you open a brochure or report.

Numbing gray ooze is not exactly a great tactic when the goal is to change people by changing the way they do things. You want readers alert and motivated, not numb and fogged up.

Diagnosing Corporate Drone (CD)

I checked my writing for CD symptoms; you can check yours for three of the most telling signs.

    • A rash of ambiguous words and phrases, like partnering, architect (as a verb), and solution (as in “partnering with leading providers of e-business information solutions” or “architecting cutting-edge security solutions). Check out these gems for other examples. The rash is particularly irritating when the assembled words and phrases make no sense.
    • Indigestion from a glut of words that are both multisyllabic and meaningless, as in this example:

The solutions uniquely offered us the integrated planning, robust supply chain optimisation and execution capabilities needed to support our store level, integrated planning and replenishment initiative

    • Fever and lethargy resulting from a scarcity of active verbs and simple, direct sentences, like this example:

In addition, ongoing services deliverables must be carefully monitored to ensure the quality, timeliness and contract compliance of the deliverables during the term of the contract. This can be time-consuming and error-prone, and unless compliance is closely managed it can lead to unneeded costs such as undetected contract overruns and duplicate invoices. With the increasing use of contingent workers, consulting projects and offshore outsourcing, the delivery risk of services is increasing and needs to be managed even more closely.

How I Recovered from Corporate Drone (Part 2)

If your writing exhibits any of these symptoms, help is at hand! In my next post (Part 2), I’ll finish the story about my bout with the CD plague and and tell you how to vaccinate your writing against it.