20131202 Flattery mai non plus

20131202 Flattery mai non plus

Nigel Morris-Cotterill

Google flatters me.

Apparently I have a Google + account. I assume some marketing person somewhere, sometime, somehow set it up. I don't remember anything about it. Nor, incidentally, do I remember actually posting anything to it.

Anyway, in the way of marketing messages, that nebulous body (are they in "the cloud"?) "The Google+ (oh, no space before the + sign?) has sent me what passes for a personalised e-mail (I know it's not because it starts "Dear" and has my full name).

Apparently, I'm "now eligible for a unique Google+ custom url that lets you easily point" [no split infinitives here: the picky grammar shows it's not spam originating in the Far East!] "people to your profile (no more long URLs!)" [oh, and it was going so well: a colon would have been better than parentheses].

Then it becomes almost threatening: "Promote this on your website, emails or other media."

Er, no thanks. I'm here at www.countermoneylaundering.com. I don't even know what Google+ (I'm learning about the space) can do for me.

But the mail does achieve one thing: it points out the importance of using proper English. I read it and at least paid some attention to it.

The next mail to arrive was a spam-scam, the latest in the daily deluge of phishing attacks on banking customers, this time Lloyds Bank which has recently changed its name from Lloyds TSB and therefore is interesting to customers. It has the updated tail-end referencing the new name and all regulators including the relatively recent PRA and FCA.

But the grammar is, like most such mails, a far-eastern variant of English: "Latest statement has arrived and available for your view. Download attached file to view all recent transaction on your account."

This is why precision in language is so important. Financial institutions must make sure that the correspondence they issue is in correct English. They must recruit people who speak and write good English. The ability to communicate correctly is vitally important. Not only does it affect the credibility of the organisation but it also avoids misunderstandings and reduces the risk of fraud.

It's a lesson that has been lost on the British government - in "Sun Tzu and the Art of Litigation" I draw attention to the errors in templates that the government has put out for litigation cases. And HM Treasury's press notices are often so poorly written that it's difficult to understand exactly what they mean. Then again, those drafting legislation don't do much better as laws such as The Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 and other financial sector laws demonstrate.

Perhaps it's not odd that Google has good English: after all, the analysis of language is its primary driver, far removed from its early days as a simple gather and indexer of content. Now analysis drives its advertising and cross-referencing business and it drives its data analysis covering everything from the content of your e-mails, internet postings on sites such as youtube and, even, documents in your on-line storage.