September 2014

Biz-Write, Biz-Speak

By Carlos Fuentes

Carlos Fuentes The strategically capable writer always keeps in mind that his all-important mission is to deliver top-notch, reader-friendly, re-contextualized (e.g., value-added) material to integrate assessment of resources, harmonize and delight his readers with in-depth analyses and hyperfication that transcends their expectations in such a way that it becomes plainly obvious that the writer has spent time harvesting efficiencies, synergizing in-depth concepts, thinking outside the box, and leveraging highly polished competences, to convince the reader that her time has been not only profitable but almost monetized, that the piece she just read resulted in a seismic shift in her appreciation of the issues under consideration thanks to the impactful skills of the subject-matter expert who managed to operationalize paradigm shifts, incentivize an in-depth understanding—even in hard-to-grasp subjects—to allow the reader to hit the ground running without losing sight of mission-critical concepts. By leveraging biz-write and biz-speak skills the writer forward-incentivizes scalable levels of understanding in the readers’ minds, right-sizes the time required to master in-depth concepts pursuant to the subject being discussed, which is only approachable to a great extent by the leadership, the tactical and strategic vision of the writer who pushes the envelope, re-contextualizes disciplines, leverages seamless integration, guesstimates the level of understanding of the average reader, and delivers reader-centered, impactful paradigm shifts by liaising win-win writing and speaking skills with subject-matter expertise in a client-ready format. The writer must remember that the leaders of a market-driven society such as modern America spend their days and nights looking for ideas that will allow them to attain immediate double-digit consistency that by necessity must be harmonized with the big picture, as Adam Smith proved when he described the uses of the “Indivisible Hand,” so irregardless of content the writer must appeal to the reader's knowledge base, perhaps to her business core values in a can-do fashion.

But come on, you may say after reading the paragraph, who writes or talks like this? Surely nobody. Not quite so. Although not to the extreme portrayed here, "biz-speak" and "biz-write" are alive and well for at least two reasons: First, careless writing requires less effort than good writing; second, some writers believe that hyperbole conveys deep thinking. Contrast the biz-write paragraph in this article to any portion of a well-written piece such as Julius Caesar's The Conquest of Gaul―yes, good communication skills are timeless. Consider and contrast the following two paragraphs:

Biz-Write: The trend has been calculated using in-depth techniques based on actuarial methods that leverage expertise in the experience of the client with macroeconomic factors that influence the market as a whole in the entire geographical region. The techniques are based on sophisticated analytical tools like least squares and blending of two numbers plus the expertise of the actuary that after reviewing reports knows that the medical inflation in the region is 7 percent for mid-sized groups but calculated 15 percent for this particular group based on an in-depth actuarial analysis, but the actuary knows that 15 percent is too high because the group is not too big and 7 percent is too small because the experience says 15 percent, so the actuary sets the trend at 10 percent by blending using 40 percent credibility based on our manuals and the 500 employees employed by the employer.

Concise Writing: This group's trend is 10 percent, which is the weighted average of the regional trend, 7 percent, and the group's trend, 15 percent. The group's credibility is 40 percent based on its size of 500 employees.

Although I cannot do justice to biz-speak in a written document, fine examples abound such as IBM Innovation Buzzword Bingo which some will find amusingly relevant.

Biz-speak and biz-write create confusion, waste time, and leave a bad impression on those who value brevity and precision. But biz-speak and biz-write should not be confused with skillful, misleading communication designed to confuse and trigger emotional reactions. Yale's Emeritus Professor Theodore Marmor explores this idea on page 10 of his book Fads, Fallacies and Foolishness in Medical Care Management and Policy, where he writes: "I want to now return to the connection between market enthusiasm and managerial fads in health care. I have in mind, the wide-spread and growing tendency to express ideas through misleadingly persuasive linguistic devices. ... These are slogans, persuasive terms that imply success by their very use. In every case of such a slogan however, the opposite or antonym has no appeal." Marmor continues: "The varied language used to describe medical care today is meant to convince rather than to describe or explain, thus even thoughtful observers often end up endorsing claims whose validity they should be assessing."

Given the fact that biz-write is so prevalent, should we care? I think so. Readers prefer good writing because it enables effective, precise communication. Biz-write, on the other hand, takes time and effort to interpret; it is a source of confusion and may not convey the author's ideas, even if he is an expert in his field.

Carlos Fuentes, FSA, MAAA, MBA is president of Axiom Actuarial Consulting. He can be reached at