Frankenquote Monsters

Words are beautiful things. You shouldn’t be afraid of them. Yet a great deal of corporate communication shies away from strong, vibrant language in an effort to avoid causing controversy.

Just about every press release has a Frankenquote — a sentence or two attributed to the CEO or another company executive but written by someone in PR or marketing. Company newsletters usually have their share of these also. Often real quotes from smart executives with charisma and perfectly fine language skills go through multiple tiers of approval, with well-meaning people cleaning up the wording so that it aligns more directly with the company’s official line. Sometimes the person being quoted does the clean-up themselves, in an effort to sound more “professional.”

The intention is honorable. Sloppy wording can cause misunderstanding, and when you send a story out to your employees or customers or members you want to be as clear as possible. But you also want them to pay attention, and eyes start to glaze over when a quote contains an overload of buzzwords, or is so afraid of offending that it becomes a pile of mush that says absolutely nothing.

So tidy up the grammar if you must, and be sure that the quote is clear and in context. Then let your subjects speak for themselves.