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Why Business People Speak Like Idiots: A Bullfighter's Guide Hardcover – March 2, 2005

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Dull, verbose, evasive language that disguises empty-headed clichés with jargon-drenched hype is pilloried in this diverting indictment of everyday business-speak. The authors are consultants, and their familiarity with the subject, enhanced through their side job peddling "Bullfighter" anti-jargon software, gives their irreverent critique a funny, knowing edge. Besides ridiculing some ripe samples of corporate pseudo-communication, they offer advice on the art of "persuasion" in every genre, from the humble e-mail to the shareholders' address, and throw in tips on public speaking, dress and deportment. Much of their advice-keep things concrete and specific, talk about what your audience is interested in-is fine, but some suggestions, like spicing up corporate presentations with ethnic humor, sexual innuendo and mild profanity, are certain to backfire. The authors also open themselves to their own critique. They throw around buzzwords like "authenticity," vapid clichés like "being you is all you'll ever need" and meaningless hype like "one-quarter of the gross domestic product is linked to persuasion." One of their recommendations for making presentations "spontaneous" and "personal" is to download anecdotes from an anecdote Web site. An injunction to brevity is translated into a mindless bean-counting formula proscribing sentences longer than 21 words (a figure derived from the "Flesch Reading Ease Scale"). And while they complain that "technology...makes it too convenient to automate the one part of business that should never be outsourced: our voice," their signature remedy for turgid, jargon-riddled prose is to run it through their anti-jargon computer program. The authors deliver a scintillating diagnosis of the problems in business communications, but sometimes their cure for the disease is the disease. Photos.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

"Let's face it. Business today is drowning in bullshit," say the authors of this timely, highly entertaining guide to cutting through corporatespeak and communicating effectively. Fugere and his coauthors, Chelsea Hardaway and Jon Warshawsky, are all veterans of the consulting giant Deloitte, and they speak with a jaded insider's view of "hype-filled, self-aggrandizing product literature" and "elephantine" reports that "shed less than two watts of light on the big issues." The concise chapters focus on common communication traps of business executives, including the tendency to write obscure, colorless, template information rather than clear material that speaks directly to its audience. Throughout, excerpts of egregious corporatespeak offer amusing, cautionary examples, and an appended glossary includes more offending phrases, along with deliciously sardonic definitions. Best of all, the authors suggest plenty of practical ways to break the bad habits. In an era in which phrases such as "going-forward value proposition" are supposed to mean something, this is a crucial guide, filled with "value-added deliverables" for readers in all professions who yearn for basic, substantive communication. Gillian Engberg
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 192 pages
  • Publisher: Free Press; 1 edition (March 2, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0743269098
  • ISBN-13: 978-0743269094
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.8 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (56 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #285,485 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

32 of 36 people found the following review helpful By R. Shaff on May 18, 2005
Format: Hardcover
How many times have you read a phrase in a book, financial report, consultant's report, or technical journal that, when you finished, you asked, "What did that just say?" If this esoteric jargon drives you nuts, and makes you wonder why the author uses these terms/phrases, then WHY BUSINESS PEOPLE SPEAK LIKE IDIOTS: A BULLFIGHTERS GUIDE is a book to read. IDIOTS calls to task the disingenuous garbage many corporate types call "reporting." Many just wanting to get by will drink the koolaid and allow these items to pass without exception.

Fugere, Hardaway, Warshawsky are three consultants, "addicts" if you will, who have decided to get off the jargon-riddled bandwagon. They detail how generic corporate atmospheres have mutated business from one of communication and meaning to one of faux intellectual elitism. Those deriding this seemingly overwhelming problem have found that speaking to the masses is much easier when one tries NOT to speak Greek.

The three authors, in an effort to spread the word virally, have created a software program called, appropriately, Bullfighter. The purpose of the program is to scour MS Word and PowerPoint documents to rid them of "jargon-mania."

Every profession creates its own jargon so insiders can discuss their livelihoods in a form of esoteric shorthand. However, jargon becomes a problem when it is used to lord over others or make them feel inferior, Warshawsky said.

The authors have studied the reception to their concept by setting up shop in an ever-busy Starbucks to take a simple survey. They showed patrons one of two actual company writing samples: one was jargon-less, while the other was the typical junk-filled jargon-based smoke and mirrors. The authors asked the patrons to assign adjectives to each communiqué.
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23 of 25 people found the following review helpful By J. West on October 25, 2005
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Which of the following proposals do you prefer?

"The historical trends have led me to conclude that by doubling or even tripling our efforts of efficiency on the domestic front, it will yield a new entity of massive synergistic proportions. I therefore wish to present to you this exhibit (a composite of metallic and mineral elements) acquired from licensed retail channels as a symbol of our new alliance. Your acceptance of this strategy would launch a series of initiatives culminating in an event that would be in compliance with local and national authorities and internationally recognized by virtually all foreign governments. Your prompt feedback in this matter is in the best interests of all stakeholders."

"Will you marry me?"

If you think the above example is absurd, think again because it's exactly how lots of business people write their emails, PowerPoints, and reports. It's also how graduate students write their research papers. It's also how lawyers write their legal briefs.

Ironically, I think the very people this book could help are the same people that don't recognize they have a problem.

For those people that already write in a plain concise style, this book is a very entertaining review of business writing nonsense. Sadly, genuine people thinking hard about real solutions to problems are outnumbered by pretenders just blowing smoke.
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19 of 21 people found the following review helpful By R. Mclean on April 18, 2007
Format: Hardcover
I wanted to like this book, but:

It's a very simplistic idea - Speak like a human not a jargon-addled automaton and people will like you and understand you better. Basically, if you read the first chapter, you've read the book.

I had hoped that there would be some actual research or references to research that supports a lot of the opinions the authors put forward. I was disappointed. Their own research sounds really thin and designed to prove a foregone conclusion rather than really shed light on the subject. And there was little in terms of linking to meaningful, objective research.

The examples they gave of what they consider good communication versus idiotic business-speak weren't very clear, fair or convincing.

I also felt like the tone of the writing and the read were pretty vindictive and self-righteous rather than helpful. I actually started to feel sorry for the "idiots" they are ripping on.

Conclusion: "truthy" ramblings galore, but no real news here.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Meryl K. Evans on October 25, 2005
Format: Hardcover
It's happened to all of us. We read something, then read it again and think, "I don't get it. What was that about?" When this happens, take comfort knowing that it's not you. It's the author.

Most of us have caught on to corporations' bull. My favorite: When they say "synergy" at a merger announcement, we know they mean "layoffs." Why say, "utilize" when "use" does the job nicely? But not all of us come with built-in bull radar and we don't know all the bull words. The book teaches more than killing jargon.

The Bullfighter's Guide looks at four traps that stop our messages from getting across clearly. Meet our first guest: Obscurity Trap. It's the empty calories of communication. Meaningless and wasteful. At least, when we get such calories from sweets, we enjoy it. Not with the obscure talk. To beat the guest at his game, use plain language.

Next up is the Anonymity Trap. Companies love to assimilate their people. Get them all to talk the same. Produce the same results. Leave the personality out. While templates make jobs easier, they also lead people into this trap. Add a jolt of personality and you won't have trouble dodging this one.

The Hard-Sell Trap sounds like its name. The mascot for this one is the "stereotypical car salesman." Customers have gotten smarter and when they sniff out a hard-sell, they run. The last guest is Tedium Trap. Reports and presentations that spout out numbers in droves put people to sleep or cause their eyeballs to roll. Fight the bull through storytelling, conversation, personality, and recreation.

Throughout the book, the authors cover these four traps and give examples of how to duck them.
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