The introductory paragraph(s) found at the top of many Web pages is what I call blah-blah text: a block of words that users typically skip when they arrive at a page. Instead, their eyes go directly to more actionable content, such as product features, bulleted lists, or hypertext links.
Despite my constant emphasis on the importance of the writing guidelines, I fall into the bloated blah-blah trap myself. It's been 10 years and numerous lectures since I developed the guidelines in 1997, but I still make content usability mistakes. That shows just how hard it is, and why you need to continuously check your copy for usability compliance.
A brief introduction can help users better understand the rest of the page. Even if they skip it initially, they might return later if it doesn't look intimidatingly long and dense. If you keep it short, a bit of blah might actually work. So, prune your initial draft of marketese and focus on answering two questions:
Got a blah box from Eric, and I love it! Looks simple on the outside with just enough clues to point u to the next step even though I got stuck for a while. The aha moment and mechanism was genius for me and I really appreciate the craft and mechanism. Look forward to more boxes from Eric definitely
So how do you write managerial blah? First of all, you will need lots of abstract nouns. It helps if these can be used to signal things that we are all meant to approve of in some open-ended, ill-defined way, such as leadership, excellence and quality. Mostly, though, you can rely on nouns that just refer to general categories into which other things fit: framework, model, strategy, mechanism and portfolio.
These abstract nouns can then be paired up with intensifying adjectives such as dynamic, strategic, impactful, innovative and user-focused. In managerial blah, these intensifiers have gone through a process that linguists call semantic bleaching. This means that their intensity has declined through overuse, until they are left as little more than placeholders in a sentence. They are so often paired with the same nouns that they form the tired couplings known as collocations. A collocation occurs when two or more words are habitually juxtaposed. So learning is always student-centred, procedures are always robust, competencies are always core and stakeholders are always key (there being no such thing, in managerial blah, as a minor stakeholder). Adverbs and participles can be collated into equally trite pairings. In managerial blah we are never just engaged but actively engaged, never just positioned but proactively positioned, never just committed but strongly committed.
In managerial blah, the phrase going forward is more than just a verbal tic. It encapsulates a particular way of looking at the world. Like the free market, the managerialist university believes in permanent revolution and endless growth. So it produces an infinite series of self-replenishing demands, urging everyone up a mountain whose summit will never be reached. University mission statements beseech us all to keep improving, to ceaselessly pursue quality, value or excellence. And how could the quest for such elusive nouns ever end?
Managerial blah is an anonymous, depopulated language. It bears no trace of any inconveniently real human beings whose imperfections might mess up the system. It deals in processes and procedures, not people. It conjures up a metric-driven, quasi-rationalistic, artificially sealed-off world in which anything can be claimed and nothing can be seen or felt. No one ever says who did what to whom, or takes ownership or blame. The juggernaut just runs on, inevitably and under its own steam, although there may be issues and challenges along the way (never problems or failures, which might be pinned on people).
Good writing always has some give in it. It is open to dispute by a reality that the writer does not own and the reader might see differently. Managerial blah, by contrast, runs along a closed circuit that permits no response. Without any sense of voice or audience, it feels tone-locked, written by no one in particular to be read by no one in particular. It is anti-language, a weary run-through of the verbal motions.
Why does managerial blah get written? In part it is down to a banal and timeless truth: most people have no great facility with words. Writing with subtlety and precision is hard, so instead we default to off-the-shelf words and boilerplate phrases. Tying nouns together with weak verbal and prepositional knots is the simplest and quickest way to rustle up a sentence and achieve a superficial fluency. If good writing is hard to write and easy to read, then managerial blah is the reverse: a labour to read, a breeze to write.
Perhaps some of those who write managerial blah genuinely believe that, merely by gluing nouns together, they have communicated meaningfully with their readers. But surely, in a university, ignorance is no defence. Managerial blah is a crime against words by intelligent, well-educated and well-remunerated people who should know better. Writing well is hard, but not that hard. If you keep on producing this ugly and alienating language when so many people have told you how ugly and alienating it is, then your intellectual laziness is not an accident.
Writing with proper care and attention offers you no hiding place. The basic somebody-did-something structure of the plain English sentence allows your reader to weigh up how convincing you sound. When you use specific nouns and strong verbs to describe your actions, you have to think through the purposes and consequences of those actions. Managerial blah evades this obligation. It can thus make the cruellest and maddest realities seem sane and incontrovertible.
Job cuts and other distressing developments are justified with the scariest two nouns in the lexicon of managerial blah: change management. Change is happening anyway, this omnipresent phrase suggests, and in a direction that has already been decided. All the rest of you can do is adapt or get off the bus. Change management is the shibboleth of a financialised capitalism that sees human capital as a faceless element in an inexorable process and a fixed cost to be reduced.
There is a long tradition of making fun of management speak, but managerial blah is too dull even to poke fun at. It offers no purchase or ingress for the satirist or ironist. It just sleepwalks from one big noun to the next, sucking us into its vortex and boring us into submission. All the imaginative promise of words has been pulped into a lumpy noun gravy, neither liquid enough to flow nor solid enough to be forked. This noun gravy is tasteless but, should you swallow enough of it, noxious.
Andy Botwin : Look, Silas. Life is just blah, blah, blah. You hope for Blah, and sometimes you find it, but mostly it's blah. And waiting for blah. And hoping you were right about the blahs you made. And then, just when you think you've got the whole blah damn thing figured out, and you're surrounded by the ones you blah, death shows up. And blah, blah, blah.
Blah blah blah is an idiom with roots that may be older than you think. We will examine the meaning of the idiom blah blah blah, where it came from, and some examples of its use in sentences. 076b4e4f54