Thursday, February 11, 2010

Abusing vague expressions

In several posts, I’ve discussed the vague expressions kind of and issues. Politicians* widely abuse vague expressions in order to avoid making clear statements for which they may be held accountable.

Here’s another example.


In a January 26 article titled “Wal-Mart Using Fake Community Group to Manufacture Support,” Kevin Robinson quotes Michael Mini, Government Relations Director at the Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce, whom he interviewed.

“Mike Mini told me that Wal-Mart is indeed a member of the Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce, that they have ‘a representative on the Government Affairs Committee,’ and that ‘our process is kind of open. Any member that expresses an interest can come to meetings and work on issues that are important to them.’ ” (Boldface added.)

At this point in the article, a typical reader would probably give Mr. Mini the benefit of a doubt, as opposed to immediately concluding that Mr. Mini was being deceptive.

But later in the interview, Mr. Mini forfeits the benefit of the doubt:

“Given that Wal-Mart supporters (and the website run by the Chicagoland Chamber) claim that opponents to Wal-Mart are outsiders that don’t live in the neighborhood, I thought I should find out if Mike Mini lived in [the neighborhood]. ‘Uh, no.’ What part of Chicago you live in? ‘No comment.’ Do you even live in Chicago at all? ‘No comment.’ ”

The Takeaway: If you are not a politician, don’t talk or write like one. Don’t abuse vague expressions such as kind of and issues. These expressions are acceptable in informal conversation; but in formal discussions (such as press interviews) and in writing, they can make you sound crooked.

*I mean politicians not in the narrow sense of people who run for office but in the wider sense of all professional deceivers, including shyster lawyers, corrupt professors, and corrupt journalists.

1 comment:

  1. I like that you always call out politicians for their unclear writing/speaking. I love that you don't limit the title "politician" to those who run for office.