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Tyler Brûlé - Burned and Banal

"We touched down after a nine-hour flight to Hong Kong, a round of meetings were held and, I believe, I passed out"

That’s the deck, possibly the lede sentence, of the September 21 column by Tyler Brûlé*  in the Financial Times. I couldn’t read any more because, first, I was trying to figure out how many things were wrong with that sentence—which of course should be more than one sentence.

There are three clauses in a row and the second one doesn’t follow the structure of the first. Then in the final one, we return to first person, though it’s first person singular and the attempt at a sentence starts with first person plural. Why am I spending time rewriting it in my head to make sense? It should start with something like, “Touching down in Hong Kong after a nine-hour flight, we proceeded to xxx hours of meetings …”

Second, I didn’t even glance at the article because looking down the list of his most recent column titles and their decks led to further head spinning and recasting

September 14 column:

"I am advised to stay put in Bangkok and cancel all travel plans because of a pulled muscle, but I fly to Brisbane anyway"

Most obviously, no comma before a conjunction. Next, this is a sentence that begs for the active voice: Lead with pulled muscle. Then there’s the redundancy: If you are told to cancel further travel plans, that would mean staying in Bangkok. Always ask yourself, “Can I say this more concisely?” Does this guy take a second look at anything he writes? He must have plenty of time waiting around airports and flying for the sake of flying.

September 7 column: “a plan … where passengers could connect …”? How can passengers connect in a plan? If you can make it through the end of the sentence, you hit something about “infrastructure works for residents.” Again, a parallelism problem—and in such a brief stretch of sentence. First there’s “passengers” and in the next breath, “residents”: both of these are people! Put them in the same part of the sentence. Don’t contrast “passengers” with “infrastructure.”

You can also always count on the burnt one for the awesomely banal, as his August 17 column advises:

Differentiate - or die

"Magazines should focus on what their most loyal customers are looking for – something new to read"


Sure, the August 31 column’s subject was also banal:

"Properties with access to great running routes could make more of their perfect locations in their marketing material"

I also swear I have read this column by Brûlé before. I only run across a column by him about once a year. Perhaps once every two years. But he has been writing this FT column, on the same narrow spectrum of subjects, for many years. Airports, hotels, the uniforms of flight attendants. He apparently flies around the globe at least once a month, stopping in no city for more than a few days. The sole purpose of the exercise is to keep report on the stuff you try to forget about business travel.

However,the main problem with that sentence is the choice of “could.” A diction problem. He means “should.” Now that I look again, “Properties with access to great running routes” is also irritating. There has to be a briefer, punchier way to say that. “Properties” or “hotels”?  Do properties have “marketing material”? If so, properties plural probably have plural materials.

The subject of the August 10 installment, besides being banal, is just stupid:

"The Japanese have a functional ensemble that is uniquely their own"

Have you ever worn one, Brûle? Ever asked Japanese women why they don’t wear a kimono unless compelled by ceremony of whatever? Kimono are very uncomfortable. You have a little packet on your back. You worry about the front falling open. You’re supposed to wear the geta sandals with a kimono, which promote shuffling. Forget running, you can’t even stride properly. Now a crisp cotton yukata at a bath or a hotel … that’s functional and comfy. But surely he couldn’t have confused the two?

Just one more, from July 13, re how desperate this man is for topics:

"I think there should be a new global standard for grading travel experiences. Changi airport gets full marks."

There’s not much people can say about Singapore, so the airport gets mentioned a lot. Plus, year after year, in passenger or pilot surveys or whatever, Changi pops up a lot.

*(né Tyler Brule, the latter pronounced like “Brûler.” And, yes, people thought for years it was the name of a fictitious character attempting to dredge humor out of business travel drudgery.  I initially thought the dangling modifiers were intentional.)

Filed under Tyler Brule parallelism diction punctuation gas

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