Communication Breakdown

I don’t even want to write this post. Complaining about someone’s English skills is small minded and petty. I know that. But the rubbish published by Swimming New Zealand (SNZ) really begs for someone to say something. Who writes the stuff they publish on their website and Facebook page? We know Steve Johns was no academic giant. Is it him or is it SNZ’s much vaunted “Communications Department”? Perhaps it’s both. Whatever the answer, SNZ really need to employ a year eleven high school student to read and correct their posts before publication.

SNZ’s most recent post is titled, “Swimming New Zealand and AUSTSWIM to announce partnership”. It is about the SNZ decision to join forces with the Australians to improve the provision of swim lessons in New Zealand. I will not highlight here all the spelling and grammatical errors in the SNZ post. Instead I will focus on the senseless and wild use of abbreviations. They are so random that understanding the subject becomes annoyingly difficult.

The way normal people treat abbreviations is to write the full name in the first instance and then in brackets the abbreviation; for example Swimming New Zealand (SNZ). From then on the reader knows that every time SNZ appears it means Swimming New Zealand. That seems pretty simple. And it is, except if you are SNZ.

For example the first paragraph of the learn-to-swim post tells us correctly that, in the balance of the post, Swimming New Zealand will be referred to as SNZ and the Australasian Council for the Teachers of Swimming and Water Safety will be known as AUSTSWIM.

But then in paragraph two, Swimming New Zealand is again called Swimming New Zealand and AUSTSWIM is AUSTSWIM. One is abbreviated and the other is not. How does that work? Paragraph two also introduces a new abbreviation by telling us that Memorandum of Understanding will hence forth be known as MOU. That information seems a bit unnecessary when paragraph two is the only occasion Memorandum of Understanding is mentioned. There is no point in abbreviating something if it is never used again.

Paragraph four tells us that the New Zealand Recreation Association will be abbreviated to NZRA. But on the only other occasion the New Zealand Recreation Association is mentioned, in paragraph five, it is not abbreviated. Once again the abbreviation is explained but never used.

In paragraph six, Swimming New Zealand is back to being called Swimming New Zealand. All that effort, in paragraph one, to explain the meaning of SNZ for it to then be ignored. Paragraph six also wrongly capitalises “New Zealand Swimming Community”.

Paragraph seven again fails to abbreviate Swimming New Zealand and ridiculously capitalises the “New Zealand Swimming and Water Safety community”.

Paragraph nine tells us that AUSTSWIM is the Australasian Council for the Teaching of Swimming and Water Safety. SNZ told us that in paragraph one. It’s hard to understand why it needs repetition.

Paragraph twelve is a victory of sorts. Swimming New Zealand was abbreviated to SNZ in paragraph one. But on three occasions after that the abbreviation was ignored until paragraph twelve. Finally here Swimming New Zealand is referred to again as SNZ, not once but on three occasions in the same paragraph. Paragraph twelve also tells us that the National Sports Organisation will be referred to as NSO. Sadly that seems unnecessary when paragraph twelve is the only occasion National Sports Organisation is mentioned.

The final paragraph thirteen contains the final fine example of abbreviating Swimming New Zealand to SNZ. It took three shots to get it right. But in the end they made it.

In case you find all the above difficult to follow, here is the link to the SNZ article where this abuse of abbreviations occurs.

The only reason I mention this stuff is because the poor English makes reading and understanding the message difficult. When SNZ make such a hash out of writing 500 words it leaves the reader wondering how well the organisation is being managed. There are many more difficult things to do in good management than preparing a literate press release. What else is SNZ getting wrong when they get something as simple as this wrong? I suspect the answer to that is – quite a bit.

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