Standing Out In A Crowd

In a recent episode of the addictive cable show, “The Boss,” the star, Kelsey Grammar, demanded an aide remove all the Oxford commas from a speech transcript. The aide diligently accepted, and then investigated just what the heck an Oxford comma is.

I’m sure a great deal of the TV audience did, as well.

(An Oxford comma is a comma inserted at the end of a series before “and,” as in: “We had shrimp, lobster, cod, and scallops during the meal.” Almost all publishers demand the Oxford comma in their style books, but it is optional and the writing is correct with no comma after “cod.”)

This is how you stand out in a crowd, and I’m sure it’s what the writers of “Boss” had in mind. Make people think about what you say. Force them to look things up. Urge them to reassess their normal view.

If you’re in strategy, tell them planning kills strategy and “strategic planning” is an oxymoron. If you’re in organizational development, tell them that team building won’t help committees, and most of what they have outside their office are committees.

You get the idea. Ignore the execrable advice to “dumb down” your language, attire, and demeanor (advice given by people who just can’t compete themselves). Make people think, explore, and debate.

I use the Oxford comma, and I know what it means, and I think the world of the writers for their example, stretching us all.

That’s how you stand out in a crowd, even with something as small as a comma or its absence.

© Alan Weiss 2012. All rights reserved.

8 thoughts on “Standing Out In A Crowd

  1. Great post. I find too often we are dumbing things down, my partner edits my blog posts before I send them live and we often debate if I should use certain words, maybe someone won’t get what I’m saying because that word is too big?

    That might be a good thing – make them think – stretch their own minds.

    Thanks for sharing.

  2. We watch for my use of large words. My concern is communicating and in conversations and speaking in the modern world, there seems to be a fear of knowing big words.

    I want my message to get through though, so I try not to use fancy words when I can use something simpler to say the same thing.

    • I couldn’t agree with you less. Appealing to the lowest common denominator is no way to stand out and establish thought leadership. For example, your approach would bore me to tears. I want stimulation and intellect, not pandering and condescension.

      • Which is exactly what I’m taking away from your post. I need to be more honest and quit worrying about the common denominator.

        Having an intellect isn’t a negative thing and shouldn’t be played down. Thank you for pointing out the error of my own ways!

        • Good for you. NEVER “dumb down” your language, attire, or demeanor. People trust successful people, and successful people are confident. Demonstrating your abilities in language, dress, or using the proper fork is what successful people do without thinking. Societies don’t move forward by dumbing down the lowest common denominator. The thrive by raising the bar and following the best and the brightest in so doing.

  3. I just can’t believe that speakers are so afraid of offending somebody that they try to cover every base in their speeches. he/she, him/her, boy/girl, man/woman, married/unmarried, gay/not gay, partner/spouse, etc You get the idea. African American, Asian American, Hispanic America, Native American, immigrant/green carder, etc. Webster’s dictionary covers most of these with politically correct simple words like, us, them, their, those, everyone, all, etc. Sorry I am finally getting it out. I will sleep so much better tonight. Haha, you-all.

    • How did that commentary result from my blog post? Am I missing something? Or do you just have some agenda you’re pushing?

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