The secret of success is sincerity. Once you can fake that, you’ve got it made.
This quote, frequently misattributed to Groucho Marx and Gerorge Burns, is actually from French dramatist Jen Giraudoux in his 1933 book The Enchanted.
Why mention it? Because it is what comes to mind whenever I see the latest imported trans-Atlantic abomination which is doing its best to ruin our beautiful English language. Hot on the heels of the word “awesome”, used to describe anything fractionally above average, “reaching out” is infecting every piece of marketing material, every Facebook page, every website with its awful ubiquitous blandness.
To reach out to someone should evoke an image of personal contact, of warmth or empathy; even, dare I say it, sincerity. Not any more. Now it’s a synonym for email or phone call. How many times do you read “we reached out to Company X”. No they didn’t! They emailed them or left a message on some awful automated phone answering service, they did not make personal, human contact.
So for everyone who sends me an email or written material that starts off “I just wanted to reach out to you to tell you about this wonderful offer….” be aware that I know it means “I want to sell you some crap”, and rest assured that your materials go straight in the rubbish bin.