Mark Bridge writes:
I’ve made a career out of choosing and using the best words… and using mobile phones. Such is the life of a technology writer.
However, I’m not obsessive about language. Lynne Truss has a point - yet her style isn’t my style.
But that’s not really relevant. You’re not here for my musings about greengrocers’ apostrophes. TheFonecast.com is all about the mobile industry.
Last week I pointed out that picking the best bits from other people’s tech reviews didn’t look good when the full version was pretty uncomplimentary. It’s often unwise to use words that don’t mean what people think they mean. Being economical with the truth can give the impression of being deliberately deceptive.
And today I’ve discovered another mobile network guilty of tripping itself up with words.
The Advertising Standards Authority has just upheld a complaint made about O2 UK’s website. A set of FAQ about iPhone 5 availability said “If we get your pre-order before 4pm the day before launch, we’ll get it to you on launch day.”
Unfortunately this didn’t happen for a number of people who’d pre-ordered an Apple iPhone 5. The problem wasn’t a delivery failure. That, to an extent, would be understandable. No, the problem was O2’s definition of a pre-order.
You see, if you ordered the iPhone 5 from O2 before the launch day, you might think this was a pre-order. That’s what regular English usage would suggest. O2 had a different definition. It had a pre-order - oops, no, a Pre-Order - and a Standard Order. If you had a Pre-Order then, well, you had a pre-order. If you had a Standard Order, it meant O2 had exhausted its allocated stock and might take up to three weeks to deliver the phone. Customers with a standard order - sorry, done it again - a Standard Order would have been told they had longer to wait.
The ASA wasn’t happy with that. It said the online FAQ answer gave a misleading impression regardless of what customers were told when they ordered, leading it to conclude the claim was misleading.
In its defence, O2 said the FAQ was only online for nine days and admitted that “in hindsight it appeared that some people making Standard Orders while the FAQ was online may have been confused by it”.
It seems O2 meant well - but its choice of words has left it in the ASA’s hall of shame.