Thoughts on branding, design, writing and life by Kevin Potts. Established 2003.

How Obtuse Are You?

In an effort to leverage my media platform, I’ve utilized a series of streamlined language structures that have been deployed exclusively for employment downtime solutions.

Also, I wrote something you might like to read while you’re bored at work.

In the world of web design, dealing with ignorance, incompetence and the frighteningly uneducated masses comes with the territory. Some would say it’s part of the fun. I don’t. But like any seasoned designer, I have fallen into hardened, bitter ways—a warm cocoon of pessimism where most of the nonsense doesn’t really affect me anymore.

But lately two things have really gotten my underwear in a wad:

  • Xanga
  • Horrible marketing copy

Besides being a perpetuator of some of the filthiest markup on the web, I’m not here to talk about the former. Instead, let’s discuss the current state of commercial marketing copy that companies use on the web and in their brochures.

I recently had the displeasure of researching the company GSL UK LTD. GSL stands for Global Solutions Ltd. So, spelled out it would be Global Solutions Ltd UK LTD. Their website is, or Global Solutions Limited Global. Clearly, this is a company who believes in the power of redundancy.

I’d like to quote the copy on their homepage:

GSL is a leader in the provision of critical support services for public authorities and corporate organisations internationally. Governments, local authorities and private companies on three continents have entrusted GSL to build and manage facilities, infrastructure and people on their behalf.

Today I left my De-Bullshitterizer™ at home, so I re-read that paragraph two or ten times and still had no clue what this company actually did. It took three or four clicks within the “About Us” section to discover that Global Solutions Ltd UK LTD actually helps companies build and run prisons. Evidently they work in other verticals (a hospital is mentioned), but prisons are their main game.

I can understand not wanting to broadcast the fact that you build bad guy housing to the world, and that just about every PR firm would advise against using the word “prison,” but does your marketese have to be so obtuse that someone wanting to learn more about your company has to dig so deep for so long just to get a fuzzy idea of your services? Who are we trying not to offend? Criminals? A jaded public?

It’s almost a throwback to 19th century writing. Remember when you had to re-read a paragraph from Poe or Dickens just to figure out what they were saying? But instead of eloquent prose, we have a string of dry buzzwords that mean nothing. It’s like your brain trying to eat sawdust.

There have been a few blog posts in the past year or so railing against this type of language, but the rebellion is not reaching the ears of Those Who Write the Shit.

I am lucky that the copywriters I work with understand the pitfalls of this non-language. They write constantly about technology, which can be hard to explain without the safety net of “leverage,” “solution” and “utilize.” They do their best to speak in plain English and our marketing collateral is infinitely better because of it. I can only hope that other writers (and the creative directors who manage them) begin to take up the red flag against the Corporate Obfuscation Machine.

Now go leverage my real-time feedback construct.

commentary + criticism

Brad Wright

wrote the following on Wednesday December 14, 2005

Since you feel the same way as I do about such marketing rubbish, I can recommend Don Watson’s Death Sentences to you.

It has the slightly more to the point subtitle (“The Decay of Public Language”) in Australia, which should give you an idea of what it’s about. It’s a great read.

The Co-worker

wrote the following on Wednesday December 14, 2005

real-time feedback construct

That’s genius.


wrote the following on Friday December 16, 2005

This stuff makes me furious. Thanks for the well written article.

You’re comments are very pretty too by the way.