Confessions of a grammar Nazi

I have to confess I am a bit anal-retentive when it comes to spelling and grammar. Typos just seem to leap out at my eyes (as long as they’re not my own), and grammatical errors and loopholes make themselves known to me constantly.

I was reminded of this recently. A friend of mine works for a Very Large Company. Their most recent “rah-rah” in-house poster calls for all employees (I’m sorry, “team members” to “Make every customer’s (Very Large Company) experience an outstanding one.”

Two things immediately spring to mind:
1) “Outstanding” is one of those words like “exceptional” that have come to have positive connotations, but are in fact neutral. Something can be outstandingly good, outstandingly bad, outstandingly surreal, or whatever — it just means very far from average. If every single customer’s experience is a nightmare for them, then the poster’s goal has been achieved.

2) If one interprets the poster to mean that every single customer experience is an outstanding one, then they have defeated the purpose of the poster. It’s much like the ironic tag line of Garrison Keillor’s stories of Lake Wobegon — “Where all the women are strong, all the men are good-looking, and all the children are above average.” If all the experiences are outstanding, then by definition each is average. It will be the mundane, humdrum customer experiences that will be the ones that stand out.

Now, I understand the sentiment behind the poster, but this kind of flagrant grammar abuse is NOT the way to do it.

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