I’m talking about the nasty kind of reaching out newspeak (© G Orwell) that apparently means “contact” or “get in touch with”. You might have read it, for example, in those interminable emails about how important you, the customer, are to business X and how much X values your input. So they invite you to start “reaching out” to X’s “customer care” team to give X feedback on how wonderful they are (not).
[I may have to come back to “customer care” one of these days.]
Dross, Rubbish, Junk, Debris, Detritus? Take your pick…
To be fair, rubbish heaps (though not heaps of slag or dross like the one shown here) do have their uses, apart from being places to dump “reaching out” and the like.
I am told, by my birdwatching friends, that rubbish dumps are an ideal place to see birds. Sometimes quite exotic birds, too.
Personally, I would pass. The only birds that visit my local rubbish dumps appear to be seagulls. Not my favourite birds. And yes, I do know they are supposedly endangered. That doesn’t stop them reaching out to dive-bomb people at seaside resorts, though, does it?
Where did reaching out come from?
I suspect that it came across the pond from the USA. Why is it, I wonder, that so many examples of mangled English cross the Atlantic from west to east and so few go the other way? Two countries divided by a common language. Common? Really?
There are two often-repeated reasons for the almost one-way traffic. First, that the English-speakers in the USA outnumber those in the UK by roughly five to one; and numbers are bound to count. Second, that the USA exports a vast amount of cultural output—written material, films, TV shows, film and TV stars themselves—around the world which influences the English we speak and the English we perceive to be normal.
I am referring to management-speak, based around sometimes oddball American management theories about how organisations should be run. There are more and more of them.
Is reaching out part of that?
You can imagine the rationale:
Here in the 21st century, when everyone is into social media, and likes, friends etc matter so much, organisations need to demonstrate that they care about their employees and especially their customers. So language needs to become more touchy-feely, more inclusive, less formal.
“Contact us” is cold and formal.
“Reach out to us” sounds as if we’re ready for a hug.
It doesn’t actually mean anything, of course, and our customer service will be no better than it was when customers “contacted” us, but they’ll feel better about us because of the warmer language. Also it costs us nothing. What’s not to like?
Everything, I would say. (I am the one on the right, please note.)
Is sharing worse than reaching out?
I am told that the latest abomination is sharing. Another of those social media words, I fear.
If I take a contract to provide a report to a client about, say, their appalling customer care practices, I will do my review and submit or present my report. They are paying my fee, after all.
They are entitled to demand the report (even if they won’t like what I’m saying in it).
I do not expect to receive a response in which the client says, “Thank you for sharing.”
The report is not a bar of chocolate. And the client is not my friend.
We have a business relationship. The client is a paying client.
I am the consultant who is sending in a serious report. For a serious fee.
Serious relationships require serious English not newspeak babble
It may be that the pass is already sold on reaching out and sharing. I sincerely hope not, though it may already be too late to stop further contamination.
My professional advice (free of charge in this case) is to use serious language for serious relationships, especially businesslike relationships such as those with clients. If you mean “contact us“, then say so. If you want to invite customers to phone, write, email, text, etc… say so. Though the generic “contact us” would cover all of those options.
Why not use it?
I should perhaps add that I will happily volunteer to wring the necks of those who continue to use “reaching out“, “sharing” and other such affronts to the English language. Such abominations should have been strangled at birth, but later will have to do, it appears.
I hope you will take heed…
Thank you for reading.