In my first PR consulting job 13 years ago, I was fortunate enough to sit opposite a former Fairfax journalist and grammar stickler. I worked on all of the company’s tech industry clients; Peter worked on a variety of corporate accounts. Poor Peter also had the unfortunate job of proofreading many of my early attempts at press releases and removing the tech-speak.
He taught me a lot – including a list of words that should never appear in a press release. ‘Revolutionary’ was one of them. If he spotted it in some technology company’s marketing drivel that had found its way into my work, he would raise his eyebrows and ask, “are people going to take to the streets at the launch of [product X]? Will they raise their fists and shout? Protest? Bring down the government? No? Well, this isn’t revolutionary.”
I was reminded of his words this week when I read some of the many articles praising the new iPad tablet computer from Apple. Almost all of them quoted Apple CEO Steve Jobs calling the device “magical and revolutionary”. Fair enough. He’s allowed to talk it up, and it’s just reported speech.
The article that really annoyed me though was this one from The Times (you’d think they’d know better). The journalist described it as “pretty revolutionary”. Bad enough that he’s used a word that I’m sure he’d beat up a PR person for using, but then to add a qualifier? I guess at least he didn’t call it a “game changer”. Boy am I sick of hearing that one. In the same article, actor Stephen Fry calls the iPad “a transformational device”. Hmm, there’s an idea for another WWW in there.
Somehow, Mr Jobs, I don’t reckon people are going to take to the streets about this one either. Well, maybe a few Apple zealots outside the Apple store when it finally ships here…