Rewriting corporate blah: a worked example

Let’s look at a real worked example of editing and cutting back a piece of corporate hot air. This is exactly the kind of work I’m often asked to do – taking some writing that’s been written internally and reworking it into something that communicates clearly and quickly.

What follows is a real example, but it could come from a million different business websites. What’s interesting here is that this example doesn’t even look bad when you first read it. As I’ve said before, bad writing doesn’t always look like bad writing.

Our team of regionally based Platform Adoption Consultants are tasked with supporting your firm with appropriate training, and to help manage any issues arising during the course of the adoption process. The team will specifically cover the configuration of the Platform to your needs and the creation and delivery of a tailored training programme and can help to migrate your clients to the Platform with a minimum of disruption.

It washes over you in a vaguely professional kind of way, doesn’t it? You gather it’s something about supporting you with adopting the new platform.

But doesn’t it sound dull – and complicated. Is that the point, you might wonder? Maybe this platform is really dull to use, convoluted, slow, confusing and just, well, depressingly corporate. No, the point of this text is to say ‘we’re solid, professional, reliable…’ But what comes across is that there’s no inspiration here, no spark, not even real clarity, just a B2B business on automatic.

Let’s look closer at what’s going on.

Our team of regionally based Platform Adoption Consultants are tasked with supporting your firm

Why is it telling us about the responsibilities of these pretentiously named consultants? We don’t care. We want to know what they do, not what they’re tasked with doing. Cut.

Next:

help manage any issues arising during the course of the adoption process

So how does ‘during the course of the adoption process’ differ from ‘during the adoption process’? It doesn’t, it just adds words. It just complicates things. Cut.

Next:

The team will specifically cover the configuration of the Platform

Please, just tell me what you’re going to do. You’re going to ‘configure the platform’.

Next:

and the creation and delivery of a tailored training programme

Didn’t you already tell me you were going to support us with appropriate training? Why are you telling me the same thing with no extra detail but some fancier words? So you’re going to create the training, not just train us. And it’s not just training, it’s a tailored training programme. Impressive? In fact, it just sounds as though they’re straining to make something ordinary sound special.

Better to say the training thing just once, especially as there’s really not much to it. I would bet a lot of money that the training just consists of a basic explanation of how some software works. A tailored training programme lasting several days, including unique training exercises devised for each new customer, culminating in an inspiring graduation ceremony and gala dinner? I don’t think so.

So if we tackle those issues we’re left with:

Our team of regionally based Platform Adoption Consultants will help manage any issues arising during the adoption process. The team will configure the Platform to your needs and deliver a tailored training programme and can help to migrate your clients to the Platform with a minimum of disruption.

Kind of clumsy, but shorter. Let’s look again. Editing and rewriting are iterative processes. There’s no way you can do it in one pass.

We’re trying to communicate quickly. So why say:

Our team of regionally based Platform Adoption Consultants

when you can just say

Our regionally based Platform Adoption Consultants?

What about this:

will help manage any issues arising during the adoption process

Is there any difference between ‘help manage any issues arising during the adoption process’ and ‘help you during the adoption process’? Isn’t that what helping is – managing any issues that arise? So that can become:

will help you during the adoption process

OK, we’re getting somewhere. The final, rather ugly, sentence is:

The team will configure the Platform to your needs and deliver a tailored training programme and can help to migrate your clients to the Platform with a minimum of disruption.

Let’s consider that phrase ‘configure the Platform to your needs’. Isn’t the meaning of configure to set up something for particular needs? So we can just say ‘configure the Platform’.

‘Deliver a tailored training programme’? Please. You’re just going to train people.

‘Migrate your clients to the Platform with a minimum of disruption’? Well if you say ‘migrate’, we know that they’re migrating to the Platform. No need for ‘to the Platform’.

And what do we end up with?

Our regionally based Platform Adoption Consultants will help you during the adoption process. They will configure the Platform for you and then train you to use it, and can help migrate your clients with a minimum of disruption.

That’s now about half as long as it was. It’s clearer. But it’s not as nice as it could be. What’s this about ‘adoption process’? Do we really need to say ‘regionally based’? How about…

Our Platform Adoption Consultants will help you get started using the Platform. They will configure it for you and train you to use it, and can also help migrate your clients with a minimum of disruption.

That’s 35 words vs 69. It’s lost the information about the consultants being regionally based, but that’s all. No other real information has gone.

Instead, we have something that feels easy. The process isn’t daunting, it isn’t technical and overblown and clumsy, it’s just something that will be easy to achieve.

Now. This actually matters. Why?

This text appears on a website that’s trying to sell the platform to customers. These customers know that setting up a whole new software system is going to be a hassle. The natural inclination is not to bother. So first you have to explain exactly why it’s so important to adopt this new platform. But, second, you have to make it feel effortlessly easy. And injecting a whole load of pompous hot air does the opposite.

The new version isn’t the best bit of writing ever, but it’s clear, clean and quick. It makes the process sound pretty frictionless.

And this is how I typically work through text that I’m given to improve. Go through it sentence by sentence. Then see what you’ve got. Step back, look again. Go through sentence by sentence once more.

To be honest, our final version above is not all the way there. We now need to know what the tone of voice should be. What kind of brand is this? What impression do we want to give?

But without that stripping back and clarifying, we could never take those next steps.