Super Cities №150 — Startups and Weasel Language

Brendan Hart

One Big Thing

The startup and business worlds needs to ruthlessly eliminate weasel language

Something that someone says either to avoid answering a question clearly or to make someone believe something that is not true

WeWork, the $20 billion behemoth, just announced that it would no longer offer unlimited beer to its members.

But in announcing the decision, a WeWork spokeswoman sounded like a cartoonish version of a Silicon Valley character: “an innovative, software-driven mechanism to help manage the provision of alcohol in our spaces.”

What the hell does that sentence mean?

It means nothing.

When discussing beer, “innovative, software-driven mechanism” is a weasel language. Its lack of clarity is offensive.

The startup world is full of weasel language. No longer satisfied with being an oh-so-boring company, registered companies are now “platforms” and “communities” and “experiences” and, in WeWork’s case, a “global network of workspaces.”

As a counterpoint, I appreciate these guys: “Snap is a camera company.”

As in all things worth doing, Keep It Simple Stupid.

Start with language.