Leap Year Lesson #319: Avoid Heinous Business Speak

Posted: November 16, 2012 in Communication
Tags: ,

I realize language changes over time and new words come into being and general acceptance after repeated usage.  Still, there are some language habits developed that just should never happen.  One that gets under my skin faster than yesterday’s flu shot did is the use of verbs as nouns.

Case in point: using the word “ask” as a noun.  I cannot tell you how many times I have heard someone (actually multiple people) at work for the past few years say phrases like “What’s the ask?” or “That’s a good ask.”  Arrrrrrggggghhhhhh!!!!!!!!  I can’t stand that!

Ask is a verb!  Know the difference!  Don’t say “What’s the ask?”  Say “What’s the question?” or “What’s the request?”  Don’t say “That’s a good ask.”  Say “That’s a good question.”  It really is simple.  You should’ve learned that in grade school.  Just because someone higher than you in the org chart uses the word incorrectly doesn’t mean you have to follow along with their butchering of the language.  Be the adult with grammar skills.

Recently I’ve had to endure presentations by a contractor that almost always begin with an early slide titled “The Ask.”  No… the title should be “The Request” or “The Agreement” or “The Contract.”  The rebellious side of me just wants to carry an air horn into meetings and blast it out every time someone refers to “the ask” or commits some similar trendy misuse of language.

Even the graphic above comes dangerously close to crossing the line.  In its attempt to clearly distinguish between nouns and verbs, it labels the crossover as heinous “business speak.”  Fortunately, it is common to add “speak” to make a compound word or phrase such as “adspeak” or “business speak,” although in this case it’s really a violation of the very practice it labels as heinous.

I know my rant won’t change business culture, but I can at least make a few people aware of the matter.  I let my team at work know my disdain for “ask” as a noun, so now they only do it to irritate me which is fair.

Leap year lesson #319 is Avoid heinous business speak.  There.  I feel better.  Carry on.

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