Were they really enabled to be able to say that?

It’s only June, but I’ve already come across a clear front-runner for this year’s “worst sentence to make it into print.”*

Cooper said Massachusetts law and regulation prohibit retailers from passing their bulk buy discount to consumers, and that Total Wine & More will “seek a change in both statute and regulation to be able to enable all retailers to be able to pass those discounts on.”

This comes to us via the State House News Service in Massachusetts and appeared in several local newspapers, but we can’t hold the publisher responsible. This seems to be a direct quote from some kind of press release.

It’s nice to take the bull by the horns, and work to put yourself into a position where you’ll be able to enable someone to be able to do something. But in this case, I think we could have hoped for much simpler phrasing, perhaps along the lines of:

will “seek a change in both statute and regulation enabling retailers to pass those discounts on.”

For that matter, I think “allowing” would be a better verb choice. All that abling and enabling is just legalese and doublespeak, quite literally (or is it triplespeak in this case?).

But that’s no surprise as the source is part of a lobbying effort for not just a single industry but a single business, unhappy with existing laws. They might have a point that certain aspects of current regulation need updating, but when their goal is gaining the ability to sell alcoholic beverages below cost, their efforts need close scrutiny. Being able to see through murky language to understand exactly what’s being said is part of how you do that.

(*I don’t actually keep lists of things like “worst sentence to make it into print” but no one’s keeping score.)

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About thebettereditor

Chris holds a BA degree in history from the University of Virginia and a Master of Fine Arts (MFA) Degree in writing from the University of Southern Maine (Stonecoast). He has worked extensively with professional and semi-professional writers and enthusiastic amateurs for about 20 years. He has several years experience in scientific publishing, but has also worked in information technology, insurance, health care, and education (he taught writing at the university level for a number of years). Since 2011, he's also specialized in helping small business meet their writing and editing needs on a budget.
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One Response to Were they really enabled to be able to say that?

  1. brianklowe says:

    Dear Lord, now I know why they need alcohol in bulk.

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