Looking Glass Language

a word bird reflects on life & language

Wordy Wednesday: “if they use these words, don’t buy their shares”

DictionariesAt school, maths geeks and word nerds are often to be found in opposing camps. However, financial analysts like Terry Smith, founder of Fundsmith.co.uk and chief executive of broker Tullett Prebon, and my partner, a technical analyst in a London/New York-based stockbroking firm, have a foot in both, and can recognise woolly words in copy as easily as they can spot a double top, a double bottom, a head and shoulders, a bullish engulfing pattern or a Prussian helmet* in a graph.

(*I’m assured that these are all legitimate financial patterns, rather than sexual peccadillos.) 

If you’re a regular reader of ‘Wordy Wednesday’, you’ll already know that I believe woolly words or hyperbole to be like black holes in copy (see previous posts on solutionsiconic and naming). You may as well write ‘blah’… So it’s good to see them being taken as a sign of a deeper malaise within an organisation by business authorities such as Terry Smith.

In a recent article in the Daily Telegraph, Smith identified the correlation between the use of such language and poor financial performance, saying, “The straight talkers get our vote and our money.” Smith sees ‘banned word syndrome’ or BWS, as a hint that poor financial results are to be expected, warning investors to be wary of companies that use words and phrases which represent a combination of woolly thinking and a desire to disguise or divert attention from a problem.

He mentions the case of Wal-Mart using ‘leverage’ an astonishing 80 times in a recent results presentation. In the following instance, he believes that Wal-Mart should have said they copied, benefited or learnt from, rather than leveraged Asda’s experience: “Asda is a leader in online grocery delivery, and we’ve leveraged that experience in the US.” It’s no coincidence, he believes, that Wal-Mart used ‘BWS’ in a set of results which revealed falling sales.

As I’m working with a branded restaurant chain at the moment, and my client has replaced a characterful, gritty quote with an anodyne quote of her own invention, I was particularly struck by the Domino’s Pizza example quoted towards the end of the article:

“A classic example is Domino’s Pizza, which began a turnaround in 2009 by publishing harsh criticism from its customers such as “Pizza was cardboard”. You only do that if you intend to change. Since then, shares have risen from $8.50 to $68. It has been one of our largest holdings since the inception of the fund.”

Authentic language such as this grabs attention and has a ring of truth that makes it much more powerful than bland corporate speak.

Read the full article here:

Single Post Navigation

Comment here

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s


Something amiss? Listen to this...

The Seed Factory

Flexible workspace for small businesses to rent in Aller, Somerset


Fit For The Future


meraki: the soul, creativity or love placed in something, the essence of yourself in your work

Adventures of Hal

Fran, Gareth and friends explore the world on Hal, our 35ft yacht

Things I think about while I drive to work

Random topics and conversation about how I view the world I live in

Curiouser & Curiouser

My curious little blog.

Knowingly Undersold

Selling discount truths at an exorbitant price! (Wrap your mind around that one)

David Baker's Novel Factory

Novel = New, Work of Fiction: Fact + History = Factory

A Road Travelled Twice

Twice across Europe by bike and more

Mike and the Marathon

I’m running the 2013 London Marathon for ICAN

A Few Kind Words

adventures in language and life


a word bird reflects on life & language

Helen Weavers's Blog

Stuff I think about...

%d bloggers like this: