Thanksgiving is almost here. So the poultry purveyor at my local market wrote to say that he would “defiantly have turkeys.” What a relief! Sadly, obviously, words aren’t his “strong suite.” Nor are they the special talent or concern of most people anymore. No one seems to care that words, like corals, are suffering and can no longer live happily together, whether in twosomes or tomes.
Clauses, sentences, paragraphs, books—the reefs words inhabit—are under attack. In hardcopy and online, word pollution is rampant. Bad grammar, misspellings, adjective-noun hybrids, and verbosity threaten the habitats of language. Wherever words hang out, ill-chosen punctuation and emoticons festoon them, like cassette tape on a colony of the Crochet Coral Reef. Even the World Wide Web, the Great Barrier Reef of the new world of words, struggles under our creative runoff and virtual trash.
Two of my pet word pollutants are jargon and spam. The first masquerades as healthy language in print and online; the second floods email and comment balloons.
Jargon, lingo peculiar to a profession or group, obfuscates meaning by puffing it up. Think excessive levels of nutrients from fertilizer fouling pristine bays. Spam (never mind the spiced, potted meat) is irrelevant or inappropriate language on the Internet. Envision sewage flowing into rivers and oceans.
Have you looked for work lately? Here’s the sort of listing that makes editors and writers run, not apply:
JargonCorp, a next-generation, growth-oriented company with a fast-paced, deadline-oriented environment, seeks to improve its coordination and facilitation of cause-marketing initiatives and activations and develop multi-channel communications campaigns with brand awareness. We are looking for a dynamic self-starter with cutting-edge insights to join our team of blue-sky, out-of-the box thinkers with end-user perspectives. You will develop a narrative arc for episodic information sharing, as well as tactical strategies and technical implementation to leverage enhanced cross-platform functionality.
What? Are you going to read more of the “role profile” and “accountabilities”? Do you care that they care about “E&D” or want to ensure their “list hygiene”? Goodness, these words are unhappy and individually diseased!
They are only one step away from the Web’s effluent, spam. Hundreds of passages like the following opened my site to a hacker and almost killed it before its first birthday:
Penelope [sneaker brand] dvd website cranberries [a medicine for men Americans sent to Afghanistan] trucks stuffing crayons …
Heavens! Not a single comma!
Google buried Sebold Communications half alive. But miracles happen …
And speaking of Thanksgiving, here’s a shout out to WordPress Web Developer Brian Jessee of Jessee Productions. Since September, he has, dare I say, “securitized” and helped optimize seboldcommunications.com for Google and Bing. Thanks for cleaning up my spot on the reef (errrr, Web), Brian!