Thursday, August 9, 2012

Doc Searls, a highly readable business writer

If you are accustomed to reading business magazines or the business sections of newspapers, you know that most business consultants and pundits write ponderous prose. Doc Searls (pictured) is different. When you read him, you find yourself gliding through the text with relative ease. A recent example is “The Customer as a God,” a Doc Searls article published in The Wall Street Journal (may require registration).

Here’s an excerpt:
...big business continues to believe that a free market is one in which customers get to choose their captors. Choosing among AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile and Verizon for your new smartphone is like choosing where you’d like to live under house arrest. It’s why marketers still talk about customers as “targets” they can “acquire,” “control,” “manage” and “lock in,” as if they were cattle. And it’s why big business thinks that the best way to get personal with customers on the Internet is with “big data,” gathered by placing tracking files in people’s browsers and smartphone apps without their knowledge—so they can be stalked wherever they go, with their “experiences” on commercial websites “personalized” for them.
It is not yet clear to the perpetrators of this practice that it is actually insane. Think about it. Nobody from a store on Main Street would follow you around with a hand in your pocket and tell you “I’m only doing this so I can give you a better shopping experience.” But that is exactly what happens online...
That excerpt wins a very high rating of 63.3 on the world’s favorite readability test, Flesch Reading Ease. Most large-company writing falls in the 10s, 20s and 30s.

The Takeaway: Skilled, experienced, diligent writers such as Doc Searls demonstrate that business prose can be made highly readable. Corporations have no excuse for scoring below 40 on readability. I believe it reveals a lack of self-respect.

See disclaimer.

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