A recent viral Twitter thread translated youth/internet ‘slang’ into sober corporate veneer (and vice versa), bobbing between internet shorthand and decoding business vocabulary.
It was a reminder of how delicate and nuanced professional communication can be, and how we work to cloak our true feelings as we convey our thoughts to colleagues.
There is a whole subgenre of TikTok where people crack jokes about the obfuscations and nonsense of corporate speak.
Grammarly would be able to correct the mechanics of those sentences, but not to translate internet lingo into sanitised corporate communications.
This is notable as Grammarly’s enterprise app is basically getting every corporate employee to write the same. A company that started as a tool to fix the pain of poor spell-check software is now driving the editorialising of style and tonalities for thousands of white collar workers and their bots. This makes Grammarly something like ‘airspace’ for dialogue or beauty filters for writing.
“Helpful” writing augmentation creates similar sentences of dull homogeneity. Grammarly is driving people towards a language of neutrality and restraint that is stripped of personality or nuance and devoid of flavour - and in doing so, it’s almost creating its own data-driven dialect.
Other tools driving the relentless homogeneity of corporate communication are tools like Canva, beautiful.ai (AI-powered good design), or the Microsoft Powerpoint Designer feature. These AIs impose compliance with design rules and reduce ‘error’ by 80-90%, but create uncanny valleys (Canva-engineered templates usually have an obvious provenance). The argument is these tools save in-house designers time by eliminating the grunt work of fixing client errors – but does it falsely empower their users with artificially engineered performance from rules they don’t know or first principles they haven’t absorbed?
Enterprise AI is nudging all knowledge workers to write the same. Perhaps corporate writing is so dreary that correcting tenses and sharpening syntax is actually a good thing. But even outside of work, there’s a general trend of ambient authorship surveillance through “suggestions” when composing an email or a tweet. We used to finish the sentences of someone we loved, now the computer does it for us. 🥀
The flattening of handwriting into digital fonts stripped away what once made writing personalised and readily identifiable. The next frontier is the writing voice itself.
🚲 Vass Bednar got her bike tuned up for spring.
Brilliant insight! I'd add that this is also happening via gmail and outlook auto complete that will now write the rest of the sentence. I used to dislike what they'd suggest, but now I've surrendered due to laziness and ease. Corporate monoculture is like the slowly heated pot that the frog knows not to jump from. ;)