[I would like to preempt this post by saying that I am VERY FORTUNATE that no one for whom I currently work writes things like the bit of realia quoted here, but that yes, this is a piece of actual copy I received many years ago. I’m protecting the source for reasons that are about to become obvious. —Ed.]

“This synergized equation of evidence plus advocacy will allow decision makers to strengthen health systems and increase equity worldwide—by unleashing the power and potential of the mid-level healthcare provider.”

– Unpublished draft copy, strategic communications project

Hi [______],

Yesterday, you asked me to provide my feedback on the blurb you’ve been working on for the new brochure. As it turns out, I do have a few editorial concerns, which I’ve included below for your review. Please feel free to email me if you have any questions.

Happy Friday!
Diana

P.S. Hope you have a blast at your scrapbooking meetup!

1. Semantics

Evidence plus advocacy is not an equation. It is an A + B aggregate on one side of the equals sign. This makes it one side of an equation; the other side is missing. In order to be an equation, it has to, you know, have things on each side of the equals sign, and those things must, in fact, be equal. You may remember this from being in 6th grade that one time.

2. Style

“Synergy” does not add to the semantic wealth of the English language in any way. Derived from the Greek synergos, it means, according to Merriam-Webster (online), “a mutually advantageous conjunction or compatibility of distinct business participants or elements”. We have a word for this already. That word is “cooperation”. In fact, things that get synergized tend to have a pretty low value to begin with and, when brought together, increase in complexity but not in value. Like that time a whole bunch of sub-prime mortgages were synergized into, well, the chain of events that made me have to do this for money.

3. Tone/Voice

Because I am too frustrated to even go into this in a direct manner right now, I have instead prepared the following short, hackish, and extremely passive-aggressive science fiction screenplay that I hope will illustrate the issues of tone and voice I found to be most pressing.

* * *

INT. KILLHAPPY INDUSTRIES LAB – NIGHT

The Killhappy Industries lab has the appearance of a sinister spaceship interior. It’s very clean, with white walls and a great deal of stainless steel throughout, and is flooded with extremely bright, unflattering artificial light that makes everyone look ghoulish. The sound of mechanical whirring can be heard continuously, and is punctuated by a series of beeps, buzzes, and ticking noises as various lab equipment emits periodic readings and alerts.

DR. KILLHAPPY sits at his desk, which is almost pathologically well-organized and adorned with a single orchid, alternately studying a slide on his microscope and intently making notes in a large, leather-bound notebook. JOHNSON enters the room, looking breathless and flustered. DR. KILLHAPPY looks up from his microscope, appearing calm but engaged.

JOHNSON: Well, Dr. Killhappy, it seems our calculations regarding the enclosure were somewhat . . . inaccurate.

DR. KILLHAPPY: Speak English, Johnson. What’s the collateral?

JOHNSON: Well, sir, I’m terribly sorry to be the one to tell you this, but it seems the enclosure has been compromised, and resultantly, it would seem—that is, we just received confirmation that we—we’ve unfortunately unleashed the power and potential of the mid-level health care provider.

DR. KILLHAPPY: [Slowly rises from his chair, stricken, then grabs JOHNSON by the lapel of his lab coat and starts shaking him vigorously] SWEET KEENING MOTHER OF GOD! WHERE IS HE GOING? WHERE? TELL ME WHERE HE IS GOING, JOHNSON!

JOHNSON: We, ah, we estimate that—he’ll be in downtown Manhattan in approximately 17 minutes, and we’ve been getting a flood of reports of competent phlebotomy and sound dietary advice as far south as the Bronx. Now that, ah, that assumes that he maintains his current rate of speed, and there really isn’t any way to, uh, verify that this will be the case, so—

DR. KILLHAPPY: GET YOURSELF TOGETHER MAN. WE DON’T HAVE TIME FOR THAT NOW. AT THIS RATE THE ENTIRE EASTERN SEABOARD WILL BE MORE-OR-LESS ALL RIGHT (EXCEPT IN THE CASE OF SERIOUS UNDERLYING HEATH CONCERNS) BY TOMORROW. CALL FOR THE CHOPPER AND TELL SNODGRASS AND THE OTHERS TO MEET US IN THE KEVLAR ROOM! WE ARE RUNNING OUT OF TIME!

JOHNSON: I—I can’t support that course of action, sir. I am so sorry to have to be the one to tell you this—really can’t tell you how sorry I am—but, well, Snodgrass and the other adjuncts agree with me that the best course of action is to get the security force on the phone right now.

DR. KILLHAPPY: [Quietly struggling to regain composure] You mean . . . the secret security force?

JOHNSON: Yes sir, that one. If we give them the pass codes to initiate Clean Sweep protocol, we should be able to limit the uptick in moderately good health to the tri-state area, provided that the initial detonation is a success.

FIN.

Please Try Harder

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