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One minute, thirty seven seconds.

That’s how long it took me to go from curiously enthusiastic to frustratingly annoyed, unleashing a gutteral scream over my cubical wall and violently tossing my earbuds onto my keyboard. Why?

Recently, Adobe introduced a marvelous idea for spicing up one of the more dreaded research tasks in corporate-dom…reading the white paper. They hired respected actors, such as Malcolm McDowell, to professionally read the text of several white papers. This was, I assume, an effort to breathe life into these mind-numbingly boring pillars of business chest pounding.

Not familiar with the white paper? A white paper is a professionally written long-form document intended to provide an authoritative voice on a given business topic. The glorious white paper is a font of thought leadership and battle-hardened insights, setting apart the author and his or her company from other scrubs vying for the same prospects and customers in a given industry.

In reality, most of them suck. That’s because they’re crafted by a committee of corporate marketers, subject matter experts, and legal assistants who become tingly over 125-word sentences. They shiver with excitement at the multi-syllabic introductory clause, followed by the unintelligible spewing of industry jargon and pretentiously chosen corporate hyperbole (deferred success, swim lane, move the needle, tiger team, boil the ocean, peel the onion).

This is where Adobe’s grand idea went horribly wrong. You see, there’s writing that's intended for the eye, and writing intended for the ear. Indeed, the text in a book is constructed very differently than the words found in a speech. If not careful, a meticulously crafted, grammatically correct sentence with complicated language and considerable length can bring a voiceover artist to his or her knees. There’s only so much oxygen the lungs can hold, folks.

Kudos to Adobe for their attempt at freshening up a stale marketing tool. But really, they spent a great deal of money on talent and studio recording time, only to have the final product fall flat because they didn’t know the difference between reading and listening.

One minute, thirty seven seconds is not going to deliver a desired return on investment. Know how to write words that actually work. And if you don’t, I have two kids in school and a truck load of college loans to help pay back. Freelance gigs are always welcome!

Timothy Condron

Sparked Imaginations

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