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Say What?

Winning over customers is tough-especially when you don't make any sense.

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This story appears in the July 2000 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

If you find yourself saying things like "deaccession" instead of "sale," or "value minutes" instead of "commercial," you could be suffering from doublespeak, a verbal affliction that's endangering business communications in the United States. So says William Lutz, author of Doublespeak Defined: Cut Through the Bull**** and Get the Point (Harper Resource).

Lutz, a professor of English at Rutgers University in Camden, New Jersey, and a consultant for the SEC on the Plain Language Project, on which he helped the commission write a regulations handbook in plain English, claims that all the business jargon floating around our vocabularies has eroded consumer trust of business. To be successful, he says, you need to talk straight to today's savvy consumers.

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