Monday, May 13, 2013

Publicist made Catherine Zeta-Jones sound sicker

Two weeks ago, a publicist for the actress Catherine Zeta-Jones told ABC News:
“Catherine has proactively checked into a [mental] health care facility. Previously Catherine has said that she is committed to periodic care in order to manage her [mental] health in an optimum manner.” (Source)

When the government forces you to enter mental health treatment, it is an “involuntary commitment.” When you enter mental health treatment without being sick enough to be involuntarily committed, you are entering “voluntarily.”

Not “proactively.”

Apparently the publicist was trying to reassure his client’s fans that she was not sick enough to be committed. While the publicist was preparing his statement, he thought of a wonderful word, proactively, to help make his point.

However, the word proactively is a vastly overused cliche. A fad word or mania word. Worse, it undermines the publicist’s point because it suggests that his client entered treatment only because she feared she was in danger of being committed.

The publicist further undermines his point by actually using the word committed. Most readers of celebrity news are, to put it kindly, not strong readers. They may remember only two things: “Catherine Zeta-Jones” and “committed.”

A better version of the statement

The publicist should have written and said something like this:
“Catherine has voluntarily checked into a health care facility, as part of a program of periodic care that she selected and began several years ago.”
The Takeaway: If you ever notice that you are feeling giddy* because you have suddenly thought of an especially wonderful word to make a point, STOP. Immediately Google the word with cliche. Example: “proactively cliche.” You will probably find that (as above) the word is a vastly overused cliche. Also look up the word in a dictionary; it is possible that (as above) the word does not help make your point. It may even (as above) undermine your point.

*In a future post, I will discuss where the giddiness comes from and why it is almost always a sign that you are about to do something embarrassing.

See disclaimer.

Thanks to Paul G. Henning for spotting the news item.

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