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January 2017

‘Commitment’ and the epidemic of jargon

Write for Results

“As a premium supplier in healthcare products, our commitment to the highest standards of safety is unparalleled.” [Yeah, right.]

“We are committed to providing you with world-class service…” [Prove it.]

“I am committed to losing two kilos by Easter” [But you probably won’t…]

Forgive my square bracketed cynicism…

January air is thick with words like ‘resolution’, ‘goal’ and ‘objective’ as we gird our New Year loins to be better human beings — or just lose weight. And hard on the heels of this aspirational language is the ever-present ‘commit’.

Let’s look at this abused, over-used word.

‘Commit’ goes way back. Six hundred years, actually.

From the Latin committere, to join, unite or connect, it originally meant to ‘charge in trust, to entrust a task to someone’s care’. This is about giving someone a duty with scant freedom of action. To commit is to make a binding pledge — to ourselves or to others — to a cause, course of action or set of values. It’s an obligation.

When you’re truly committed, there’s no turning back.

From that we get the idea of literally consigning someone to prison or a mental institution, or a body to the earth (‘committal’), or figuratively, as in ‘commit to memory/paper/writing’. We also have the idea of perpetration, as in ‘commit a sin/crime’ or ‘commit suicide’.

So ‘commit’ is not some flippant, fly-by-night, flibbertigibbet of a word. It’s serious, charged with centuries of obligation and responsibility. Let’s not cheapen it and trivialise it by turning it into business jargon to flog products or services.

If your service is genuinely world-class, your customers will be screaming it from the digital rooftops. And if it’s not, stop telling us you want it to be. Here endeth the lesson.

Post script. This is my favourite quote on commitment, from WH Murray, the celebrated mountaineer, author and soldier:

Until one is committed there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back, always ineffectiveness.

Concerning all acts of initiative or creation, there is one elementary truth the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans…that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves. too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one’s favor all manner of incidents and meetings and material assistance which no man could have believed would have come his way.

Whatever you think you can do or believe you can, begin it. Action has magic, grace, and power in it. Begin it now.”

rhetorica ® — a toolkit of 21 everyday writing techniques

Write for Results

Although my book on persuasive writing is now available on Amazon, I’m launching the Kindle version end March for £0.99/$0.99, with all proceeds going to my two designated charities: Blind Veterans UK and the Type Archive, a globally unique collection of type, typefaces and historic printing presses. Both organisations do amazing work and need all the help they can get. I’ll remind you of the Kindle launch nearer the time.

If you just want to dip a toe into the limpid pool of my book, check out these three chapters.

If you do buy a copy and like what you see, then pls post a review. A few kind souls have already left 5-star reviews, but for the end March launch I want to have amassed dozens. Apparently Amazon promotes books that get a certain number of positive reviews.

The cover of rhetorica ® — which I’m thrilled with and which gets lots of positive comments — was designed by Professor Phil Cleaver. Phil instantly ‘got’ my desire to make rhetorica ® a covetable object. Besides running a design studio in Oxford, Phil is an expert in typesetting, typography and typographic history, and introduced me to the Type Archive. He’s the best designer I’ve ever worked with.

New Write for Results branding: coming full circle (even though it’s a diamond)

Write for Results

I’ve ditched the bland ‘SJK Consultants’ — it never really did it for me — and gone back to my original brand of Write for Results (W4R), but with a new logo.

I co-founded W4R in 2004 with Andy Maslen, a top copywriter, and for eight happy years we trained several blue-chip clients in writing skills, including staff of The Economist Group. In 2012 Andy decided to devote himself to his copywriting (and latterly novel writing), leaving me with the company.

Phil Cleaver and his team at et al design created and typeset the new diamond-shaped logo.

Next sales writing & design open course: 23/24 February 2017

Write for Results

This is a new take on my annual writing skills open course for professionals: I’ve added a design element. Run in the City of London in collaboration with Top Consultant, a management consultancy recruiter, this 1½-day workshop will show you how to write with power and persuasion, then lay out your words so that people want to read them.

Day 1 features my rhetorica ® writing techniques, complete with exercises, debriefs and wide-ranging discussions about writing. The following morning, Professor Phil Cleaver, my book designer, will cover topics like What is type?, a brief history of type, some do’s & don’ts of typesetting, examples of good and bad layout and, for the truly brave, a (gentle) critique of delegates’ document samples for everyone to learn from.

As Prof. Phil says, ‘There’s no point writing the most persuasive words if they’re so badly laid out they’re not inviting to read’.

Here’s the link to find out more.