Should companies stop using ‘is in need of’ in job want ads?

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IN response to my column the other Saturday on the need to avoid using the officious and bureaucratic “regards” phrases (tinyurl.com/nxktrj4), a reader who identified himself simply as CB made this very interesting comment:

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“While you’re at it, Mr. Carillo, I think you should also admonish companies to stop using ‘is in need of’ when writing help wanted ads/announcements for job openings. Why can’t they just say ‘need/s”? It’s to the point, and much better at conveying urgency than the clumsy ‘is in need of.’”

Here’s my reply to CB:

You are asking me a grammar question that had also crossed my mind several times over the years but never bothered to articulate, much less to put down in writing and answer. Why, indeed, do many companies that advertise job openings for, say, sales clerks and merchandizers use the tagline “We are in need of sales clerks and merchandizers” instead of the more succinct “We need sales clerks and merchandizers”?

I definitely agree with you that using the active verb “need” for such taglines is direct to the point and much better at conveying urgency, but I don’t think we can consider using the verb phrase “is in need of” clumsy and, by implication, less suitable for the purpose. The two taglines actually mean the same thing, and aside from their word-counts, I think the only valid distinction that we can make between them is that they differ in language register, or the kind of language used for a particular purpose or in a particular communication setting.

Without question, the more traditional and common business usage is “We are in need of sales clerks and merchandisers.” Here, we have a passive-voice sentence denoting a state of need to fill up those positions—a statement that clearly deems it more important to draw the attention of the reader to that need rather than to the needful entity. On the other hand, the more concise “We need sales clerks and merchandisers” is an active-voice sentence that draws attention to the subject directly and forcefully stating its need to fill up those positions. Such statement is much more concise, of course, but it has an undertone of urgency that, even if warranted, might be imprudent for the company to admit or even publicly hint at from the hiring standpoint.

For this reason, CB, I must say for the record that I’m extremely hesitant to admonish companies from using the “We are in need of…” tagline in their job wanted ads. It’s a perfectly legitimate way of expressing their need, and we would be unduly intruding on that prerogative to to ask them to express their want ads only in the more direct and urgent way that you suggested.

* * *

I was recently asked this other interesting language question by Justin Aragones, a member of Jose Carillo’s English Forum:

“Is the use of ‘Yours in Christ’ as complimentary close appropriate in memos and other business letters particularly inside a Catholic school?”

Here’s my reply to Justin Aragones:

Among devout Roman Catholics or Christians, it’s perfectly natural and acceptable to use “Yours in Christ” as a complimentary close in memos and letters to one another—and all the more so within the premises of a Catholic school or in its interoffice communication. However, I think that template should be used only by, for, and between fellow believers. It would be inappropriate—even tactless and imprudent—to use “Yours in Christ” in letters addressed to audiences that conceivably might consist not only of Roman Catholics, Christians, and Muslims but also of believers in other religious faiths, not to mention atheists and agnostics. In such cases, it would be wise and prudent to stick to generic nonreligious and professional complimentary closes like “Yours truly,” “Sincerely yours,” and “With my best regards.”

Visit Jose Carillo’s English Forum at http://josecarilloforum.com. Visit me on Facebook. Follow me at Twitter.com @J8Carillo.

j8carillo@yahoo.com

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5 Comments

  1. Why not just make it much simplier. Vacancies, as the main headline, sub headlines, sales people, computer programmers, welders, electricians etc etc, & if you want a little more information put down how many positions are needed, i.e. electricians ( 3 ).
    But something i think is far more important than looking at silly words or phrases is why not make it so much easier for peo[ple looking for work. Stop all this getting police clearance, barangay clearance, medicals. When you have so many poor people looking for work & still you want to make money out of them before they get a job. If the company is strict in wanting people to have medical examinations then let them pay for it, im sure they will soon change that policy once they see how expensive it is. & why stop people getting a job if they have a small criminal record, by doing that you are condemming them to a life of crime. If someone stole something from a store yes punnish him but after dont let it stop him getting work. I hate it that people here are so corrupt but because theyve never been caught they think they are so righteous. I hate it here when someone goes for a job they have to cow tow to the interviewer or they wont get the job. The interviewer thinks he is more important than the applicant & wants the applicant to acknowledge it, ignor it at your peril in this country.

    • Dustin, your point is well taken, but I don’t think we should go as far as to dictate that job want ads be always written in bullet form. Let’s give the advertisers some slack in using English to communicate their job openings; as I’m sure you know, whether in English or in any other tongue, highly regimented language could make for very dull, unappetizing reading. At any rate, Dustin, I’m impressed that you seem to know the workings of the Philippine job market very intimately. Are you speaking from personal experience or from anecdotal stories told to you by frustrated Filipino job-seekers? Either way, I’m inviting you to share your musings and insights in much greater detail–not here though but in Jose Carillo’s English Forum, where we can have a real, honest-to-goodness running conversation about them. Do drop by sometime.

  2. Hello, Mr. Carillo. I didn’t think my comment to your previous column would merit a spot in today’s column. Thank you for enlightening us readers about the legitimacy of using “is in need of” and what it emphasizes/draws attention to in job wanted ads. Now I know the phrase isn’t officious and bureaucratic after all. God bless you and may you continue enriching our knowledge of English.

  3. Errata: In the 6th paragraph, 2nd line of my column above, the clause “we have a passive-voice sentence denoting a state of need to fill up those positions” should read instead as “we have an active-voice sentence denoting a state of need to fill up those positions.” My apologies for the proofreading error.