Three weeks ago I traveled to Indianapolis to Speak at the Indiana Energy Conference, a meeting sponsored by the Citizens Action Coalition and a board group from the local gas and electric industries, including a fair number of state government employees. Focusing on issues largely specific to Indiana, that audience gave the meeting a novel perspective: What's a low-cost state to do?
Do you fix it if it ain't broke? Should Indiana restructure its electric industry, at the risk of perhaps losing the rate advantage that it now enjoys? Will deregulation favor the big customers, leaving scraps for the rest?
I'll get to that. But first, let me tell a little story about magazines, vocabulary, and editing craft.
When I came to the end of my talk with some time left on the clock, I offered a few personal thoughts about magazine editing. Off the top of my head, I listed for the audience some of the words and phrases that we have banned entirely from the pages the FORTNIGHTLY.
Tops on my list is "prudency," which doesn't even exist as a word in the English language. We have also banned terms like "functionality," "shareholder value," "cross-functional project team," and "new paradigm." Want to save some space on your hard disk? Pull up all your files and replace "methodology" with "method." Trust me. It'll do wonders for your memos. (The audience giggled here; I had touched a nerve.) "Employee empowerment" is another good one. What it really means is that other people have to give up their power.
Later in the day a woman thanked me earnestly for my comments. She bore the look of a bureaucrat who had survived more than a few rounds of downsizing. Maybe her boss had been sitting in the audience. Maybe she has had enough of restructuring.
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