The Chief Language Officer Parable

Some people believe that all technology should be centralized in the IT department. They reject the idea that marketing should control its own software — even though modern marketing is now deeply entwined with the technologies it uses. The premise of these naysayers is that only IT can responsibly manage technology, cloud computing or not. Perhaps. But consider this metaphoric tale…

Effective immediately, no one outside the Language Department is allowed to write anything, on orders from our new Chief Language Officer. From now on, if you want to write a memo, an email, an ad, or a blog post — even a 140 character tweet — you need to go through the Language Department.

It’s simply not cost effective for everyone to learn proper spelling and grammar. Instead, we’ll hire specially trained writers and editors — professionals with a proper English degree from a respectable liberal arts college — to manage our words with due care.

our new chief language officer

People in other departments are better off focusing their efforts on doing, well, whatever they do — marketing, sales, customer service. Surely you can’t expect a salesperson to also have the necessary skills to write. You don’t want your marketing people wasting their time, staring off into space, searching for the perfect noun or debating proper pluralization.

This centralization of language operations will save us money. Experts who are certified in verb conjugation and subject-verb agreement can deliver tremendous economies of scale in sentence production. These language experts will make sure we’re in compliance with the rules of good grammar and will reduce the risk of errors — after all, it only takes a single typo to open this firm up to litigation or ridicule by Jay Leno.

We can’t afford to have just anyone irresponsibly typing up their own communication, misusing new-fangled cloud-computing technologies such as Google Docs. There’d be fragments and dangling participles just strewn across our enterprise, silos of sloppy locutions that would drag down our Flesch-Kincaid readability scores.

Because this is such a serious issue, anyone engaging in “shadow language” — secretly writing their own stuff without the supervision of the Language Department — will be dealt with harshly. Any rogue copies of Strunk & White will be confiscated on sight.

Now, obviously you can’t reply to this edict without instantly violating it, so simply signal your acknowledgement by grunting approvingly. That’s all the Language Department thinks you cretins are capable of anyway.

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5 thoughts on “The Chief Language Officer Parable”

  1. Hi, Andy. I actually wrote this as a metaphor for the claim that all technology in a company should be under the control of the IT department.
    In a world where technology infuses everybody’s job — and, in my case, I’m particularly focused on technology applied in modern marketing — it’s unrealistic to think that IT will (or should) retain monopolistic control over all things technical.
    It’s almost as absurd as this parable.
    That being said, I’ll take a laugh for a literal interpretation too! 😉 And your advice to “calm down and trust people” is perfectly applicable. Thanks for the comment.

  2. Thanks, Eric.
    I know, it’s a little over the top. Obviously most IT departments don’t take things to this extreme. A little comedic liberty in my portrayal?
    One could imagine a Chief Language Officer that was a brilliant editor that, rather than being a dominating dictator, simply served to advise and improve other departments’ writing when he/she was invited, increasing value without impeding agility. Analogous to your vision of a post-modern CIO?

  3. You’re right, there’s too much risk in letting non-English major grads write their own communications. Centralizing the communications functions will allow the company leverage paper usage more effectively too.
    Brilliant insight!

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