THIS IS NOT WHAT I INTEND my “Strunkandwhiten It!” category to be about, but it does qualify as a misuse of the language—although in this case, it may be intentional camouflage. I am often surprised by the way large, HUGELY successful corporations are treated and described in the financial sections of newspapers.
Headlines and leads would have the reader believe that many companies are in dire straits when the truth is the opposite. Here are the headlines and leads to an article in todays’ SEATTLE TIMES (July 23, 2013):
McDonald’s earnings fall short
TOUGH YEAR AHEAD
FOR FAST-FOOD GIANT
Higher costs, less crew
efficiency with new items
Does not sound good. In fact, it sounds rather dire. Well, read on and one finds that their second quarter profits for 2013 only rose 4%, less than the Wall Street prognosticators had expected. THAT is the explanation for the headline above.
And, while their stock took a small fall on Monday, it’s up 13% over the year. For the 34,000 stores worldwide, “sales edged up 1% at restaurants open at least a year.”
I dunno, sounds pretty damn good to me. But then comes the qualifier: “The small sales bump in the U.S. wasn’t enough to offset the higher advertising and promotional costs for those new items, as well as the reduced efficiency in restaurants.” THAT is the explanation for the second lead above.
The increased costs in doing business and the “reduced efficiency” sounds bad, I agree. Except, don’t these companies get to write these costs off of their tax forms?
Please keep in mind that any increase in sales for a corporation that enjoys a multi-billion dollar profit year after year is, in fact and deed, a huge increase in real dollars. That is, McDonald’s is making more money in 2013 than it did in 2012. But you would NEVER know that by the headlines and leads quoted above.
PS: About that “reduced efficiency” noted above: it is a continually growing problem in US businesses everywhere. This is at least partially (if not wholly) due to a combination of reduced education for American students at all grade levels and inadequate compensation.
Most of these restaurants pay “competitive wages,” which translates to “slightly more than minimum wage,” which means the job has no real value to most of the employees as they can usually replace one “competitive wage” position for another in a day or two. But that’s another story . . .
William Strunk Jr’s original edition of The Elements Of Style (1919) was all of fifty-three pages long. In 1959, it was revised and expanded by one of his students, the famous children’s book author E.B. White. It is one of the best-selling and most influential grammar and punctuation books ever published. I have used the authors’ names for one of the categories of this site: Strunkandwhiten It! For more information, refer to “On William Strunk and Elements of Style.”
NOTE: For my SEO by Yoast: Tough year ahead for Mcdonalds just aint so so?