In the United States, political analysts and late-night television comedians have been talking about truth and lies, in light of the recent political convention. They accuse some convention speakers of hyperbole, misrepresentation, and blatant lying. Politicians and their spokespersons have been defending or talking around the misstatements, saying their goals for the country override concerns about the facts.
I do not mean to get into politics here, of course. But I am considering to what extent hyperbole, misrepresentation, and lying have worked their way into business writing. What do you think?
On a recent Friday evening, I had a serious problem with my website. I was glad to read online that the site registry's service department was open 24/7. When I phoned and emailed about the problem, however, I learned that no service technicians were available until Monday morning. Was “24/7 service" a hyperbole?
A while ago I viewed an acquaintance’s new website. When I complimented him on the testimonials he had received from clients, he told me he had written them—using words his clients would have said if he had asked them. Misrepresentation or blatant lying?
An employee in a business writing class told me that when she needs an excuse for a tardy email response, she simply tells the email recipient that the company’s servers had been down. Blatant lying.
It appears that the goals of these writers overrode their concerns about the truth. Yet in each case, my regard for the company or the individual plummeted. In the case of the site registry, I am looking for a new one—not because of the technical problem but because of the 24-7 misrepresentation.
How widespread are exaggeration, misrepresentation, and outright lies in business writing? Do you suspect or see them in the pieces you read? How do you react to them?