When you Compare Things

rogersgeorge on June 3rd, 2016

“All marcom people are insane.”

That’s a motto of technical writers everywhere. Marcom is short for “marketing communications.” You know, advertising and stuff like that. This post is about one of the reasons tech writers say that marcom people are insane. First, a comic.

JumpStart

I suppose technical writers aren’t the only ones who cringe at this. The mistake, in case you didn’t get it, is stating only half of a comparison. I see this all the time in advertising. Every bag of chips, it seems, has 40% less fat. 40% less fat than what? Less than  before? Less than the competition? Less than apples?

Here’s the rule: When you use the comparative, say what you’re comparing it to. (The comparative usually ends in -er.) Is it faster? Say what it’s faster than. Is something better? Tell them better than what. (Beware of saying better than ever. I heard some guy made a product called “ever” so he could sue folks for demeaning his product.)

In marketing they rely on context to imply (sometimes mislead) what’s being compared, but when you explain something, don’t leave the comparison to chance, spell it out. That’s better.

Now an exercise for the reader: spelling it out is better than what?

PS. I just ran into another comparison word that frequently appears without its “compared to” term. See below. It’s Tina’s Groove for June 12.

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