This isn’t really a catastrophe; the alliterative headline was irresistible.
Corporate communication is a difficult thing to get right. There are endless possible ways to say something and invariably many people choose the wrong way.
I’d like to show you a couple of examples that I noticed recently, and explain why they could be better. The following two signs are from the toilets of a popular chain of coffee shops. This one:
doesn’t make sense. The first sentence stops before it can be finished. We know what they mean, but only because we can piece together their intention from the fragments of thoughts they give us.
I don’t know how many of these signs were printed, but it’s incredible that nobody tried to read the sign before it was approved for printing.
As if one confused sign wasn’t enough, we come to exhibit B:
This sign suffers from a common complaint. The language used is anachronistic. Nobody speaks like this, yet we all feel obliged to get all fancy and archaic when it comes to anything official.
It would be easier for everyone if the sign writer had simply written: “Please don’t flush nappies or sanitary towels down the toilet. Please use the bin provided.”
Of course, the sign also contains another blunder: it should say “disposal bin” rather than “disposable bin”. A disposable bin is a strange concept. Rather like a flammable lighter. But even “disposal bin” is too much. “Bin” will suffice.
The most common flaw with corporate communication occurs when organisations forget that a business is made up of people, and that customers are people too. So really we should remember that we’re just people speaking to people. Drop the veil of formality, and write as you would speak.