The Apprentice’s language lesson

October 28th, 2010 by Jon Clements

What happens when, instead of using the right words, your brain puts them into a giant, H.G. Wells, vocabularly mincing machine?

Just ask the latest casualty of BBC 1’s The Apprentice, Melissa Cohen.

Anyone simultaneously following Twitter would’ve seen that fans of the show were frantically waving P45s in Cohen’s direction well before her descent into the hilariously nightmarish world of Mrs Malaprop.

But even beyond her general obnoxious qualities on the programme, it was her mangling of the English language that really got the Twitterati going.

Newly-forged words, such as “manoeuvrement”, “analysation” and “retributed” spilled onto the screen, leaving bewilderment in their wake.

But, does any of this matter in business and communication?

While listening has to be top of the list of communications skills, the ability to express oneself clearly and succinctly is vital to being understood. Having a good vocabulary – or at least a vocabulary that doesn’t take your tongue hostage and make you sound like an idiot – is part of this. This article goes as far to say that “having a poor vocabulary can close doors” and recommends reading to improve your vocabulary to improve your word power and sentence structure.

That old staple of mass market education, The Reader’s Digest, used to proclaim that “It Pays to Increase Your Word Power” with a vocabulary quiz in each edition, which has now morphed into a Word Power game online.

But, let’s face it, we’re all busy and vocabulary building may not be top of our “to-do” list.

So, when facing situations where you need to get across a clear message:

– Be well prepared and, preferably, rehearse what you are going to say in front of someone who’ll give you constructive feedback and not collapse laughing if your tongue slips.

– Outline a small number of key points you absolutely want, or need, to convey and keep them simple.

– Avoid the jargon that’s a natural part of your job and think: would the “guy in the pub” understand this?

And when the deal is secured, the audience wowed or the media impressed with your message, just think how fantasticised you’ll feel.

About Jon Clements

Jon Clements is a Chartered PR consultant specialising in B2B PR, corporate and marketing communications and is the founder of Metamorphic PR. Connect at: JonClements ''

3 Responses to “The Apprentice’s language lesson”


  1. Crawford Warnock Says:

    “Contrafibularities?? Why, ’tis a common word, down our way…” Blackadder the Third…http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hOSYiT2iG08


  2. Martin del Milner Says:

    Exactlifying what I was considerationing whilst viewifacting the show.
    This manglification of Englishiticy is becoming increasingly commonplaceable in face-to-face interactionisations.

    Keep it simple so everyone can understandify.


  3. Jon Clements Says:

    Crawford, Martin…

    My sentiments exacterrilly.

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