Written in stone: Editing the Martin Luther King Jr. National Memorial

Many years ago, while working at a large consulting firm, I participated in what I thought was a particularly clever marketing program. The tag line: “Funny how one slip of a word can change the entire meaning of what you’re trying to say.” The cartoon-like graphics included Richard Nixon, wearing a chef’s hat and holding a spatula proclaiming, “I am not a cook”; Abraham Lincoln with a festive paper hat, a party whistle and a mug saying, “Four score and seven beers ago”; and – my personal favorite – a dog in a space suit with the caption “The beagle has landed!” The obvious pitch: Hire a professional to do your writing because even one small mistake can completely change your meaning and ruin the message.

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Lessons in communication from Michael Porter

World-renowned expert on strategy and competition Michael Porter has forever changed the language of business. Terms such as “the value chain,” “competitive advantage” and “differentiation,” to name just a few, are bandied about daily in companies across America. In her new book, “Understanding Michael Porter,” Joan Magretta revisits Porter’s strategy essentials in an effort to help the average manager fully understand and implement these often-misunderstood terms. Her premise in writing the book: Many of us who think that we understand these terms and principles, don’t. We talk the talk, but we don’t truly understand what we’re saying.

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