Why do people talk purple prose?

OK.  It’s Saturday evening, snow’s falling, I’m caffeinated up on tea and chocolates and have just watched a ‘Quantum of Solace’ on TV.   When I first wrote the title for this piece I have to say that the title of this piece changed from one that involved Anglo-Saxon expletives through to the mild sentence you now read.  So, what has made my bile rise to the tip of my tongue?  What horror have I seen inflicted on the world that has driven me to put fingers to keyboard?  It’s purple prose like this:

” … is a builder, a transformer. He cherishes the electricity and challenge of growing and leading a team in the pursuit of audacious goals. The more daunting the mountain, the more exciting the adventure.”

Are we talking about an oil-field trouble-shooter?  A leader of intrepid explorers?  Captain of Earth’s first Interstellar Spacecraft?  No.  It’s a marketing fellow.  Now, if this works for him and his business, so be it.  But come on folks, be honest.  Do we really go around talking to each other like this?  Should we go around talking to each other like this?

I’m not totally free of this sort of thing myself – my own CV features:

To make full use of my unique range of IT and management skills and interests to develop technically advanced information systems that provide business advantage to users. […snip… ]As well as my technical ability, my written and verbal communication skills, project management expertise, team leading, mentoring and management skills allow me to make a consistently valuable contribution to any IT project.

It’s not perfect, but it does say what my professional services supply.  I’m not climbing mountains or fording mighty rivers; I’m doing stuff with computers and management consultancy, for crying out loud.  Don’t get me wrong – a Mission Statement is a valuable tool when phrased appropriately and meaningfully.  One excellent definition of a Mission Statement I’ve come across is:

To provide one simple, singular directive that can serve as a guidepost to solve any problems that emerge.

– the Mission Statement becomes a compass for your life or your business.  I have a personal one (and personal it shall stay!) that I use to try and keep me on the straight and narrow.  Keeping it simple and straight forward, whilst encapsulating the core values that you want to live and / or work by is crucial.  The woolier the prose is, the more purple the writing, the more ‘wriggle room’ there is in your Mission Statement and the less valuable it is at providing that ‘compass’ when things get tough.

My favourite Mission Statement (Well…maybe more of a statement of intent…)  is still from the film ‘The Mummy’ – “Kill the creature, save the girl”. 

And the heroes do exactly what it says on the tin; no wriggle-room, just get on with the job.

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