Obfuscation is a good word isn’t it? It means exactly what it sounds like: unintelligible, unclear and hard to understand. And it’s not a word I use very often because I prefer to keep things simple. But I see a lot of documents that are riddled with long words or long sentences and even for […]
Do you ever feel bulled by signs or messages or instructions? I’m sure you know the things I
mean – when you go into an office building or to the doctors or somewhere and it’s full of
notices telling you what not to do. No eating. No parking. No touching. No talking on the
phone. No entry. No speaking until you’re spoken to…
I get that there are procedures to follow and that places need to be functional and pleasant
and safe for everyone but I don’t get why they can’t just be a bit nicer about it.
Years ago I worked in a bar I remember being told that the company who ran it (a huge
national brewery chain) chose not to use the word ‘no’ on their signage. Instead of ‘no
smoking’ (yes this was in the days of nicotine-stained pub walls and overflowing ashtrays on
the bar) a sign would say something like ‘please refrain from smoking’. It was a conscious
and clever way of asking you to do something rather than telling you not to. Nicer isn’t it?
More positive, less dictatorial. And probably much more likely to be observed. It’s an
approach I use whenever I can. There are very few corporate messages that have to be said
negatively. I don’t mean you have to go all Pollyanna and put a positive spin on everything –
you can’t. But most of the time there’s an alternative to the word ‘no’ or ‘not’ that softens a
message and makes the information easier to digest. Try it.