Monday, June 6, 2011

Puerile writing vs. grown-up writing (3)

Puerile writing, as contrasted with grown-up writing, can sound jarringly out of place in a grown-up situation. And the person who wrote the puerile copy can look narcissistic, histrionic and even untrustworthy.

An example of puerile writing

For example, last Friday a company called Onswipe issued a press release that begins with this paragraph:

“Onswipe announced today that it has raised a $5 million Series Awesome to keep up with overwhelming demand from both publishers and advertisers. Onswipe provides the ability for publishers to make their content look amazing on tablet devices such as iPad while providing an advertising platform to make publishers boatloads of money.” (Boldface added.)


A first round of venture funding is traditionally called “Series A.” Apparently, an Onswipe writer chose to call Onswipe’s Series A “Series Awesome.” Perhaps he thought he was being clever. Spoken in a bar it may sound clever; written in a press release it sounds histrionic.

Later in the paragraph the writer uses the hyperbolic words amazing and boatloads. Again, that’s OK in a bar but overstated in a press release. (Although the word overwhelming also appears to be hyperbolic here, it is a legitimate usage because it is credibly supported by a fact stated in the second paragraph.)

Later in the release, we encounter more examples of hyperbolic, histrionic language; for example:

the Summer of Onswipe

world domination


The Takeaway: When you are writing to grown-ups, write like a grown-up.* Puerile writing can make you sound inexperienced and even untrustworthy. Always edit your copy carefully. And, if possible, have it edited by a perceptive reader who will be candid with you. Remember, it is easier to endure private criticism than public ridicule.

See disclaimer.

*However, this rule does not apply in reverse. For example, if you are a bank president writing a speech that you will deliver at a high-school graduation, do not try to write like a teenager. It is rhetorical slumming and is in bad taste.

1 comment:

  1. I’m a very recent fan of yours and have now read my way through all of your 2011 posts. In general I try reduce the damage of my poor grammar by consulting the ‘Elements of Style'. Thanks to your topical and interesting examples, this blog, has become an additional step in my damage control routine. Thanks.

    Also, I laughed when I saw the ‘Series Awesome’ line.