for a strong, fast pick-me-up
When you need to apologise – don’t use words like re-accommodate. Use ‘real’ words.
When I read the United Airlines apology after a passenger was forcibly removed from a flight because it was ‘overbooked’ – I couldn’t believe the CEO used the word re-accommodate. To me, the word seemed unnatural and trying to hide/soften what really happened.
When I help organisations apologise – part of the process is re-accommodating words like re-accommodate. I work with the spokesperson/ comms team to find the right words.
Finding the ‘bad words’ that need to be removed includes:
You need to do both – because some of your audience will hear the words while others will read them.
From my experience, the ‘big, bad words’ that need to be ‘re-accommodated’ stand out visually and sound unnatural. The number of syllables is often something to look and listen for,
When coming up with the right words for an apology, we think of the audience and try to use words the audience would use.
I understand that many industries use particular industry jargon – but when you are talking to an everyday audience – use everyday language.
Often corporate jargon uses longer and ‘less colourful’ words – with any drama sucked out of them.
On the other hand, the media use short and dramatic words. Media words often ‘sound’ dramatic.
For example, the media would use words like axed and slashed to cover a story on job losses. Corporate language would use words like re-assigned or right-sizing or implementing cost-efficiencies. See the difference?
Apology language should be somewhere between the two extremes – real but not too dramatic.
I can’t believe they used re-accomodate. In my opinion that choice of word will cause lasting damage as captured in and perpetuated by memes like this one.
I’m still thinking about better possible words than re-accommodate.
I’ve just read a second apology from United – after the first one with re-accommodate in it was criticised and ridiculed. The latest apology ended with what I consider to be better, real and effective apology language that the audience wants to hear.
‘I promise you we will do better.’
(I’m keen to hear from you about your reaction to the apologies and your suggestions for words that would works for you. Please add your views in the comments below.