Thursday, May 24, 2012

Grandiose and gratuitous

In a recent Medicare Summary Notice, I saw this sentence:

To provide you with the best possible service, the Medicare Summary Notice is now available in Spanish.

With a moment’s thought, many readers will recognize that the phrase “provide you with the best possible service” is grandiose and gratuitous.

It is grandiose because it suggests that a minor change in policy (offering the document in an additional language) achieves a major goal (the best possible service). Not just improved service, mind you; the best possible service.

The writer could have avoided the grandiosity by writing “as part of our continuing effort to provide the best possible service.

But one could argue that it is gratuitous to even mention a reason for offering an additional language. For, when any organization does business in several languages, the reason is obvious: the organization is offering each language for the convenience of part of its customer base.

So, the writer probably should have written, “The Medicare Summary Notice is now available in Spanish.” And he should have written it in Spanish.

The intelligent, alert reader gives these matters a moment’s thought, but that writer probably did not. He probably just picked the phrase “best possible service” off the top of his head.

The Takeaway: Think before you write. Or at the very least, think as you edit. Otherwise, you run the risk of looking careless or even foolish to your readers.

See disclaimer.

1 comment:

  1. All so true! And of course the sentence should have been in Spanish, in clear Spanish. I can hardly make out what those Medicare communications are saying in English, and English is my native language. There must be armies of unemployed English majors out there who could be assigned to clarify Medicare English. After they finish that, they can start on computer manuals.