Why 'solutions' is a dirty word.

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I changed my website recently, and the new front page launches straight into an attack on bad business writing - especially that bloody word

I saw a van the other day with ‘Office solutions’ written on it, and a phone number. That’s all - no logo, no strapline, no clarification. With a name like that, what do you think they do? Do they fit office furniture? Perhaps they bring lunchtime sandwiches. Maybe they install and maintain water coolers, or supply juggling clowns to boost flagging morale. Nope. They supply IT equipment. Fair enough. But I only discovered that by phoning them and asking. So if I’d been in the market for some office IT equipment, I wouldn’t have called because I wouldn’t have known what the hell they did. Just say what you mean. Obviously ‘solutions’ is too vague, and it uses valuable space that could be occupied by words that worked a lot harder, like 'jellyfish', or 'monkey'. But it’s become part of the rotten business language that many organisations default to because they think ‘that’s how businesses write’. And it’s not their fault, because boring business language is such a big monster that it just sucks other businesses into its gaping maw. I’ve seen some terrible examples, the worst of which had to be in the aisle of a well-known supermarket chain. There, hanging from the ceiling, was a huge sign saying ‘Dining solutions’. I’m not kidding. Being a naturally curious kind of copywriter, I had to know what a dining solution was. The answer? Apparently, a dining solution is a frozen ready meal. So why not just say ‘Ready meals’? The same way the office solutions van could have said ‘Office IT equipment’. There’s no shame in saying exactly what you do. Win a dictionary. I bet you can’t get through a day without seeing a business use that word – quite unnecessarily – at least once. (Unless you live in the middle of nowhere, of course, but even then I wouldn’t be surprised to see a disgruntled cow with ‘dairy solutions’ shaved into its side.) On your way to or from work, or at lunchtime, you’ll see a van, poster, sign or ad with ‘solutions’ letting the side down. And now you’ll question it too. Hopefully. If you see a particularly ridiculous use of the word that dare not speak its name, whip out your smartphone and take a picture, then email it to me. I’ll put the best ones up on my blog, and the winner gets a brand new copy of the Oxford English Dictionary, with the word ‘solutions’ crossed out in angry red ink.