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Caution In Your Copy

beware of your words

In business, we’re seeking bigger, better, stronger, faster, slicker, sexier and the like. So are our clients. In our efforts, we must be cautious how we address our previous tools that were smaller, weaker, slower, uglier and the like.

After last year’s tiger attacks at the San Francisco zoo, many efforts have been made to raise walls to minimize the chances of a tiger attacking a guest again. But with this week’s opening of “San Francisco Zoo’s New, Safer Grottos,” with the choice of the word “safer” aren’t they admitting guilt?

When you write your copy, don’t you think that your measures to improve business should be worded so as not to indicate guilt that your business wasn’t all it could be prior to launching a new feature or business model? Never box yourself in.

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Lani is the COO and News Director at The American Genius, has co-authored a book, co-founded BASHH, Austin Digital Jobs, Remote Digital Jobs, and is a seasoned business writer and editorialist with a penchant for the irreverent.



  1. Mark Harrison

    February 21, 2008 at 2:25 pm


    Actually – when we make changes, we explicitly DO word things in a way that “admits guilt.”

    We find that customer response is that by admitting we’ve done things wrong in the past, customers are far more likely to realise that we’re honest.

    Spinning things so that it looks like we’re perfect has, in our experience, backfired, as people assume that we’re “corporatespeak droids” – by being willing to admit mistakes, our customers (and colleagues) relate to us far better as humans and THAT is a compelling proposition!

    In the zoo case, though, I agree that admitting guilt when there was the chance of a big lawsuit against you for negligence would probably be a mistake 🙂

  2. Lani Anglin-Rosales

    February 21, 2008 at 2:32 pm

    You are absolutely right, Mark. If your company is, say, Enron- you should admit guilt and pick up whatever pieces are left. But if your company is simply *upgrading* services, *degrading* previous services can leave consumers to question if the new upgrades are the best they can be (meaning, does the grotto have the *safest* *highest* walls possible or will we just hear the word “safer” at the next renovation?).

    Negligence = admit guilt
    Upgrade = hype upgrade, not degrade past

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