Monday, October 1, 2012

The backloaded sentence

Andrew McAfee has published an article titled “When Did Yoda Start Writing CEO Speeches?” The article explains why CEOs abuse the backloaded sentence (a sentence in which the writer makes the reader wait for important information until the end of the sentence). Here’s an excerpt:
In standard English the subject usually comes before the verb: the boy ran up the hill. One of the reasons Yoda sounds so otherworldly is that he often inverted this: run up the hill the boy did. A lot of business folk seem to be under his influence these days. Instead of saying “Our costs are rising” they’ll say “Things are not great right now, from a cost perspective.”

What’s going on here, I suspect, is that they know the overall sentiment they want to convey. In this case, it’s not a good one; costs are rising. So on the fly they construct a sentence that leads with the sentiment (things are not great) and backloads with the reason why (from a cost perspective).
The Takeaway: The backloaded sentence is not inherently bad; for example, you can use it occasionally for emphasis. However, it is bad to abuse it, as in the example above. By the way, notice that Andrew McAfee, like Seth Godin and Kyle Wiens, judges people’s character by their language. So do all intelligent readers (although the more sentimental ones deny they do). Always write for the intelligent reader, not the stupid reader. The stupid reader won’t know or care whether your writing is good or bad.

See disclaimer.

No comments:

Post a Comment